Hey all. Let’s talk about news real quick.
A Fairfield Police officer stationed at Fairfield High School was suspended for three days without pay after he accidentally shocked a student with a Taser last month, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. An investigation into the incident found that the officer wasn’t acting with any malice toward the student, but concludes that it “should not have occurred.” No kidding. Reports from the department reveal officer Kevin Harrington has “displayed his Taser in the past to students without a valid law enforcement purpose.”
Harrington was speaking to a 17-year-old student in his office about her recent breakup with her boyfriend. The officer says he was trying to cheer her up. At one point the student reflected that she would probably get back with the boy and be in Harrington’s office again in a few weeks. At that point, Harrington joked, “if you were my daughter I would just tase you.” He pulled the Taser out, but thought it didn’t have its cartridge in it. The Taser, a newer model, had a second cartridge in the handle. It went off, and one of the barbs went into the student’s abdomen. According to officials, Harrington has admitted to pulling out his Taser around students 15 to 20 times during his three years of service at the school.
• As we told you recently, Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann will face a tough challenge from Democrat and current State Rep. Denise Driehaus of Clifton in his quest for reelection next year. Hartmann was at the center of a fight last year over the county’s sales tax hike to fund renovations to Union Terminal, a tax which initially also included funds for Music Hall. Cutting the latter from that deal has made Hartmann and fellow Republican commish Chris Monzel unpopular in some circles. But Hartmann says he’s ready to fight for another term, and that his stance on Music Hall saved tax payers tons of money and will be seen as a positive by many voters. Hartmann discussed that and many other issues surrounding his reelection bid in an in-depth interview with the Business Courier. It’s worth a read.
• Speaking of elections next year, is former Ohio governor and U.S. Senate hopeful Ted Strickland worried about a recently announced super PAC backing Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld? Not at all, he says. Both Sittenfeld and Strickland were at Longworth Hall last night for the Hamilton County Democratic Party’s fall fundraiser last night. At the event, Strickland told reporters that he’s focused on incumbent Republican Senator Rob Portman and that Sittenfeld isn’t his enemy. He also expressed confidence that opponents could spend millions against him and would still come out the winner of the 2016 race, a vital one for Democrats looking to take back control of the Senate. Sittenfeld also spoke at the event, challenging Strickland to a debate. But the former guv says that’s unlikely to happen, mostly because he’s more focused on Portman. Strickland has little incentive to debate Sittenfeld, as he’s the frontrunner with a huge lead against the councilman and statewide name recognition from his time as governor.
• I might be stepping over into our music department’s turf on this, but I think it’s pretty cool and worth a brief mention. Cincinnati is the setting of a new video by rap legend Talib Kweli. The video for Kweli’s “Every Ghetto” shows Kweli hanging around various Cincinnati locations with some Cincinnati notables, including local rapper Buggs Tha Rocka, who is sporting Cincinnati-based Floyd Johnson’s Ohio Against the World gear. There are shots of various downtown locations, the fountain on the corner of Clifton and Ludlow avenues and more. The song was also produced by long-time Kweli collaborator and Cincinnatian Hi-Tek. Pretty rad.
• Ohio has delayed scheduled executions again over the lack of proper drugs necessary for administering the death penalty, state officials announced yesterday. The announcement comes after the state said earlier this year that it would cease using a two-drug cocktail designed to replace thiopental sodium, the drug once used in administering the death penalty. Ohio has had trouble sourcing that drug, which American companies will no longer sell for execution use. The two-drug cocktail used to replace it has caused abnormally long, and some critics say painful, executions in Ohio and other states. But the state is finding it difficult to obtain more thiopental sodium, even from overseas suppliers, forcing officials to push back scheduled executions. Ohio has more than 25 executions scheduled between January 2017 and 2019.
• Finally, I assume you’re familiar with Westboro Baptist Church, the group of religious extremists known for protesting gay rights at funerals and many other incredibly charming and principled activism efforts. The kooky group of far-right warriors is at it again, focusing their ire and formidable protesting skills on… Kentucky’s most famous clerk of courts Kim Davis. That’s right. Even the clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses in protest of the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same sex marriage can’t escape the hateful wrath of the Westboro folks. Wait. Aren't y'all supposed to be on the same side here? Apparently not. Davis is a hypocrite, Westboro members say, because she’s been divorced and remarried. A few members of the group picketed outside Davis’ office yesterday and called for Davis to divorce her current husband and return to her original husband… for some reason… and also said that Davis should do her job and issue marriage licenses and focus on protesting same-sex marriage in her own time, because “God hates oath breakers just like he hates adulterers and hates same-sex marriage.” Well then. It’s really hard to know who to root for here, folks.
Hello all. I hope your weekend was good. I spent part of my Saturday volunteering at the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative’s annual Youth Summit at Xavier University. The summit involved a number of sessions on topics youth in Cincinnati said they wanted to know more about. Hundreds of young folks crammed into sessions about goal setting, fitness, civic engagement and more.
There was also a two-way facilitated conversation between Cincinnati police officers and youth attendees as well as remarks from CPD Chief Eliot Isaacs, Councilwoman Yvette Simpson and others. Cincy’s young people face a lot of challenges, but it’s good to be reminded how smart and driven they are and that there are a lot of people out there doing good work to help empower them.
Anyway, here’s the news today. On Friday, city workers welded together the last bit of track for the streetcar, bringing the highly contested transit project one step closer to reality. So far, streetcar construction has been on time and on budget, though a revelation over the summer that the cars themselves will be somewhat delayed has raised concerns. The city itself did not hold any official ceremonies — officials say that will come when the streetcars themselves show up at the end of the month. But the grassroots group Believe in Cincinnati, which helped keep the project going after it was paused by Mayor John Cranley in 2013, held their own event as the final bits of track were placed. Front and center at that celebration was a look ahead toward a proposed next phase of the project, which advocates would like to see head Uptown toward the University of Cincinnati and the city’s hospitals. Cranley remains opposed to the so-called Phase 1b plans, at least until the initial phase, which is a 3.6-mile loop through downtown and Over-the-Rhine, can be evaluated.
• Speaking of Over-the-Rhine, one of its mainstay breweries is growing. Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. just finished a $5 million expansion, the center of which is 12 new fermenters that will increase its brewing capacity from 15,000 barrels a year to 50,000. It has also added new equipment that will allow it to produce more cans of beer in addition to bottles. Up to now, the brewery had been using a mobile canner. All this increased capacity means that Moerlein will be able to produce all of its historic Hudepohl brand beer right here in Cincy, an operation that had been contracted out to other breweries outside the city.
• Let’s head next door to Pendleton real quick, where the next phase in a large redevelopment project by Model Group is taking shape. Cincinnati City Council on Friday approved a 12-year property tax abatement worth nearly $90,000 a year on Model’s $6.4 million redevelopment plan, which will create 30 market-rate apartments and about 1,200 square feet of retail space in the three- and four-story rowhouses on East 12th and 13th streets. The project is expected to be completed by September of next year.
• Hamilton County Commissioners today will consider a proposal by Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil to create a heroin detox facility in the county’s Justice Center. The plan would use $500,000 to create an 18-bed treatment center to help inmates detox off the drug with medical help. That’s a big change from what happens now, and in most jails, where inmates are often left to detox cold turkey. Neil and project proponent Major Charmaine McGuffy, who runs the Justice Center, say detoxing without medical attention can be fatal for inmates. Neil says the current approach to dealing with inmates hooked on opiates isn’t working and that the county needs a new plan. It takes about a week of medical attention and a round of special drugs to undergo a chemical detox like the kind the proposed treatment facility would administer.
• Finally, as we’ve talked about before, Gov. John Kasich has identified New Hampshire as a make-or-break state for him in the GOP presidential primary election. If he doesn’t do well in the Granite State’s Feb. 9 primary, he says, he’s outtie. Sooooo… uh, how’s it going? Not so great so far, it would seem. Kasich’s still struggling to make a name for himself in the key state, according to news reports, with many potential GOP primary voters saying they don’t know enough about him. About 45 percent of the state’s potential GOP voters have a positive opinion of the Big Queso (this is my new nickname for Kasich). Hm. Perhaps our guv should make a few more ill-advised jokes or leak more Instagram videos of himself dancing to Walk the Moon.
I’m out. Twitter. Email. Hit me with news tips or suggestions on where to get some new rad sneakers. I’ve been told the bright blue Nike Dunks I’ve been wearing forever are annoying.
Photographers Laurie Simmons and Matthew Rolston have both previously done series based on its collection of dummies, and Simmons even used them in a 40-minute film, The Music of Regret, that also starred Meryl Streep.
Now Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art is hosting a new theater work, The Ventriloquists Convention, that is based on the annual event here that Vent Haven sponsors. According to the MCA, “the piece imagines meetings among the convention delegates and their dummies, who each maintain distinct voices and identities.”
European director/choreographer Gisèle Vienne is working with American novelist Dennis Cooper on this project, joined by German puppet-theater company Puppentheater Halle.
The MCA also says that Vienne and Cooper “developed their approach for this show from documentary and fictional sources, building it into a group of quirky portraits of ventriloquists celebrating their shared interests and friendship. The show explores why ventriloquists do what they do, and what lies behind the relationships that they have with their dummies.
“Performed by nine ventriloquists-puppeteers, the piece hinges on the use of multiple layered dialogues, including the ghostly, non-physical ventriloquists' voices. These portraits enable Gisèle Vienne to continue her ongoing research into the interplay between physical presence and dissociation that she had developed in prior projects.”
If you want to attend (no word yet on Cincinnati performances), The Ventriloquists Convention takes place Nov. 12-14 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $30 and available at the MCA Box Office at 312-397-4010 or mcachicago.org.
The Ventriloquists Convention is supported by the French-American Fund for Contemporary Theater, an initiative of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S. and the Institut Français, It is also funded by the Florence Gould Foundation and the Catherine Popesco Foundation for the Arts. Additional support comes from the Goethe-Institut and the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany.
There are almost too many good shows for you to enjoy this weekend, but depending on what you like, you’ll probably find it somewhere.
Cincy Shakes production of Death of a Salesman doesn’t open until tonight, but all sings point to a strong production, headlined by one of our region’s best actors, Bruce Cromer, as beaten-down Willie Loman, who I interviewed for my CityBeat column this week. He’s matched with another fine local stage performer Annie Fitzpatrick as Willie’s faithful but worried wife; two of the Shakespeare team’s excellent company of actors, Jared Joplin and Justin McCombs, play Willie’s sons who can’t quite bear up to the weight of his expectations. Arthur Miller’s play is one of the greatest, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award. So if it’s serious drama, get tickets for this one, onstage through Nov. 7: 513-381-2273.
Want something more frivolous and entertaining, but still a great performance? Show up at Ensemble Theatre for Buyer and Cellar, a one-man show about a guy pretending to be a shopkeeper in a vast basement treasure trove of acquisitions on Barbra Streisand’s Malibu estate. It’s 90 minutes of non-stop storytelling, rooted in a real place — but with a fantasized chain of events. Actor Nick Cearley is a comic gem, performing in a smartly written script that requires him to conjure up not just Alex, the actor hired to wait on Barbra, “the customer” (one and only), but the singer herself and a handful of others. Great fun to watch. Here’s my review. Through Nov. 1. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
If you love a good Broadway musical, you need to show up at the Aronoff and score a seat for the touring production of Pippin. (CityBeat review here.) It’s a show from 40 years ago (by Stephen Schwartz, the creator of Wicked more recently), but this version of an award-winning Broadway revival from two years ago is full of Cirque du Soleil-styled acrobatics, as well as some great songs and performers. It’s a sort of fairytale embroidered from a real historical character from the 9th century, the son of the monarch who launched the Holy Roman Empire. It’s about the young Pippin’s arduous search for a meaningful life. The “Leading Player,” a kind of emcee/storyteller, is Gabrielle McClinton, who handled the role on Broadway for part of its two-year run there, and Charlemagne, Pippin’s father, is played by veteran actor John Rubinstein — who originated the title role back in 1972. (He’s 68 now, but still an energetic, animated performer.) Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Shows previous opened that are also worth seeing include the very serious drama Extremities at the Incline Theater in E. Price Hill (tickets: 513-241-6550), onstage through Sunday; and Sex with Strangers, a very modern romance about writers who envy one another’s careers and lust after one another’s bodies, has another week and a half at the Cincinnati Playhouse (tickets: 513-421-3888).
Let’s talk about the latest in the ongoing debate over Issue 22, Mayor John Cranley’s proposed charter amendment to fund changes to the city’s parks via a 1 mill property tax levy. Yesterday, Parks Director Wille Carden said figures estimating the cost of 16 proposed projects that would be funded by that amendment were generated by the mayor’s office. Carden said that those estimates are at best rough guesses and that the amendment might not fund all of them. Overall, the mayor’s office says those projects will cost $85 million and that decisions about which will be funded will depend on public input, how shovel-ready each one is and other considerations. Issue 22 detractors used these revelations to further press their criticisms of the amendment, saying that the proposed property tax is ill-considered. Supporters are standing by the amendment, however, saying that even if all the projects aren’t funded, the city’s parks stand to benefit greatly from the measure.
• A majority of Cincinnati City Council now officially opposes that charter amendment, with council members Wendell Young and Chris Seelbach yesterday penning an editorial against Issue 22. Seelbach and Young cited lack of provisions for public input and better uses for the tax dollars at stake as among the reasons they’re joining council members Charlie Winburn, Amy Murray and Yvette Simpson in opposing the plan. Vice Mayor David Mann and Councilmen Kevin Flynn, P.G. Sittenfeld and Christopher Smitherman all support the amendment, citing the opportunity to provide vastly better funding for the city’s parks as the reason for their support.
• One of the projects on the Issue 22 list is a revamp of Ziegler Park, which sits on the Over-the-Rhine side of Sycamore Street right on the border with Pendleton. The Park Board yesterday voted to acquire the land necessary to begin that revamp, which will proceed with or without the Issue 22 funding. The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation is a major partner on the $30 million project and has said it is assembling funding to make the renovation of the park a reality. 3CDC says a new pool and water attraction will be part of that overhaul, as well as a large green space across the street next to condos in the former SCPA building.
That green space will sit atop a large parking garage very similar to one built underneath Washington Park in OTR. The basketball courts currently next to Ziegler will be preserved, though new courts will be installed. The proposed revamp has caused some controversy in the community, which is predominantly low-income and black. Some activists have expressed concern that changes to the park could exclude current long-term residents of the area. 3CDC says it has held a number of public meetings and is striving to make the park accessible to all, but bitter memories of Washington Park’s renovation still linger. Activists point to the changes to that park, which removed basketball courts, sitting spaces along the perimeter of the park and other features popular with long-term users, as reasons for their concerns.
• Members of Cincinnati Black Lives Matter tomorrow are throwing a block party in Mount Auburn to honor the life of Sam DuBose and other unarmed people of color killed by police. The event, which is meant to rally support around the families of DuBose, Quandavier Hicks and others, kicks off tomorrow at 2 p.m. at Thill and Vine streets and will feature free music and food, and later a rally protesting police violence. Meanwhile, a push for greater accountability and justice continues at the University of Cincinnati, which employed officer Ray Tensing, who shot DuBose back in July. Tensing is currently facing murder charges for that shooting, but student activists at UC are asking for bigger changes, including a big increase in the enrollment of black students on UC’s main campus. Currently, only 5 percent of students at UC’s flagship Clifton campus are black. You can read the full list of steps the so-called Irate8 (named after the 8 percent of black students in the UC system as a whole) here.
• I’m a history nerd, so this is really, really cool. Yale University recently released thousands of never-before-seen pictures of Depression-era America taken by Works Progress Administration photographers. Among them are a bunch from Cincinnati, which you can see here. It’s always super-interesting to see these kinds of candid shots, which illustrate what every day life was like back then, taking away some of the mists and myths of history and making that time period seem very relatable and not-so-distant. Check ‘em out.
• Finally, what would Gov. John Kasich do if he won the
Republican nomination for presidency and then the general election in 2016?
Well, according to the guv, he’d basically dismantle the federal government’s
funding for transportation and education, letting states decide through block
grants how they’d like to handle those services. Kasich is putting forth a
so-called “balanced budget” proposal that would do just that as a demonstration
of what he’d do if he wins the White House. Oh yeah, that budget proposal
also slashes taxes for large corporations and high earners, dropping the top
tax rate from nearly 40 percent to 28 percent. It also gives a slight increase
to the Earned Income Tax Credit, which goes to the country’s lowest earners.
Most of Kasich’s cuts, however, come on the top end of the earning spectrum, and would actually… get ready for this… create a budget deficit for the first eight years they were in effect, according to the man himself. Kasich says increased profits and economic activity from the lower taxes, along with big spending cuts, would then balance things out, however, filling revenue gaps created by the tax cuts. If all that sounds familiar, it’s because conservatives have been touting this approach since Ronald Regan was president. Has a similar plan worked in Ohio? Kinda-sorta-not really. Kasich has cut income taxes, but spending has also grown in Ohio. Kasich has raised other taxes, mostly sales taxes that put a higher proportional burden on low-earners, to make up the difference. The state does have a surplus, mostly because the economy has rebounded and Ohio, like most other states, has added jobs. How much of this was Kasich’s doing, however, is up for serious debate.
Travel back in time this October at the Taft Museum of Art. Current exhibit Antique Halloween is a one-room display of spooky antiques ranging in date from the 1900s to 1950s. The items, obtained by local collectors, include decorations, toys and games, candy cups and more. A ghostly ambiance is created by candle shades and jack-o-lanterns dispersed throughout the room. Through Nov. 1. $10 adults; $5 ages 6-17; free Sunday. Taft Museum of Art, 316 Pike St., Downtown, 513-241-0343, taftmuseum.org.
Kids and animals alike are in for a special treat during the Cincinnati Zoo’s HallZOOween festival. This family-friendly Halloween celebration features trick-or-treat stations for the kids, costumed characters, a Hogwarts Express train ride and special pumpkin playtime for elephants, otters, meerkats and more. Bring your own treat bag to stuff with goodies and hunt for the Golden Frisch’s Big Boy. Two golden Big Boy statues will be hidden around the zoo each weekend; whoever finds them wins a special zoo/Frisch’s prize package (with tartar sauce). Follow clues on the zoo’s Twitter page: #BigBoyClue. Noon-5 p.m. Select Saturdays and Sundays in October. Free with zoo admission ($18 adult; $12 child/senior). Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, cincinnatizoo.org.
EVENT: OHIO RENAISSANCE FESTIVALThe 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 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. Through Oct. 25. $21.95 adult; $9.95 child; $119.95 season pass. 10542 E. State Route 73, Waynesville, renfestival.com.
EVENT: OLD WEST FEST (LAST DAY)
If you have a pair of cowboy boots laying around that you’ve been meaning to break out, you’re in luck — Old West Fest is back for its eighth year, featuring an authentic recreated Old West Dodge-City-style town, with gold panning, covered-wagon rides, kids activities, live entertainment (including trick riding and a saloon show) and more. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through Oct. 18. $12 adults; $6 ages 6-12; free under 12. 1449 Greenbush Cobb Road, Williamsburg, oldwestfestival.com.
ONSTAGE: THE HUNCHBACK OF SEVILLE
Set just after Columbus’ discovery of the New World, Charise Castro Smith’s satirical and often anachronistic historical play covers a lot of territory. In 1504, Spain’s Queen Isabella is fretting about her empire and dying of some horrible plague, and she’s likely to be succeeded by her bratty daughter. Meanwhile, Isabella’s brilliant sister — a reclusive, atheist hunchback — is stuck in her bedroom thinking about cats, math and a Muslim lover. It’s a wild tale — just what you expect to see at Know Theatre — but this production comes to Over-the-Rhine from the drama program at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. Through Oct. 24. $20; $10 rush seats. Know Theatre, 1120 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-300-5669, knowtheatre.com.
“Cincinnati, in some ways, was the start of me being an artist,” says Mark Mothersbaugh, relaxing as best he can, given his constantly enthused, exuberant state, in a meeting room at downtown’s Contemporary Arts Center. “So there’s something about coming back here that is this completion of a cycle.” In the building on this day, much is going on that is about him. The CAC is preparing to open (at 8 p.m. Friday to the general public) its much-anticipated exhibit, Myopia. The show, curated by Adam Lerner of Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art, looks at the Akron, Ohio native’s career as a visual artist/designer, as well as his accomplishments as a co-founder and lead singer of the Post-Punk/Art-Rock band Devo and subsequently as an in-demand composer for film and television, creating music for such Wes Anderson movies as The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and Rushmore, as well as The Lego Movie, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and Rugrats. Read the full feature on Mothersbaugh and Myopia here. Through Jan. 9. Visit contemporaryartscenter.org for more information.
Hey all! I’m still struggling out of a food coma after attending last night’s Iron Fork event, but copious amounts of black coffee help me persevere. Anyway, let’s talk about news really quick.
I told you yesterday about the controversy swirling around a $200,000 contribution the Cincinnati Parks Board made to a group supporting Issue 22, the mayor’s proposed charter amendment funding the city’s parks. That controversy reached such a fever pitch that this morning, the Parks Board voted to ask for the money back. Though critics of that contribution say it is improper and illegal, the board stands by the appropriateness of its contribution, which it says came from a private endowment, not from tax dollars. However, board members said the money had become “a distraction” and that they’ve voted to ask for it back to keep from clouding the parks levy issue. Welp. There you go.
• Cincinnati City Council yesterday voted 5-4 to give City Manager Harry Black a 3-percent raise. There was controversy over the size of that raise, however, and debate about the process by which it was awarded. Black already received a 1.5-percent cost of living increase on his one-year anniversary over the summer, a fact Mayor John Cranley said he was unaware of. Some on Council, including Vice Mayor David Mann, thought another 3 percent on top of that cost of living bump was too much.
“It sends an improper message,” Mann said, citing the city’s high poverty rates and attention to income inequality over the past year. “I just can’t bring myself to support this large an increase.”
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld expressed similar hesitancy with the size of Black’s raise, which will increase his salary to more than $256,000 a year. Sittenfeld said the overall 4.5-percent raise could present a tough position when the city negotiates wages with other city employees.
“Our society is upside down right now,” he said. “When you say 4.5 percent is right for those at the top, but not for you, that sends the wrong message.”
Councilman Chris Seelbach opposed any raise for the manager, saying his salary is already high enough. Though council members praised Black’s performance, some said there were areas for improvement. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson listed off a number of critiques, including a suggestion Black work harder at engaging the community. Simpson, Seelbach, Sittenfeld and Mann all voted against the 4.5-percent increase, though Sittenfeld and Mann said they were open to a smaller raise. Councilman Charlie Winburn voted for the raise, and generally praised Black, but had harsh words about his handling of the dismissal of former Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, which he said the city had “botched up so bad.”
Some council members pointed out that the ordinance passed to hire Black last year stipulated a performance review for the city manager. That review, which was supposed to be performed by a committee and include input from all council members, was never completed. Instead, Mayor John Cranley says he’s gone over Black’s performance verbally with the city manager. Councilwoman Amy Murray also said yesterday that she sat down with Black to review his performance. Though council members Yvette Simpson and Chris Seelbach balked at providing Black with the raise without the stipulated committee review, other council members, including Kevin Flynn, pinned that responsibility on Council itself, not the mayor or the city manager. Flynn said that if Council wanted to review the city manager, it should have taken initiative and done so, and that it wasn’t fair to hold the city manager’s raise because it hadn’t.
• The head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation swung through the area yesterday to talk about inner-city violence. And what better place to give such a talk than the mean streets of… Kenwood? Yeah. To be fair, that’s where the FBI’s local field office is, so that’s where FBI Executive Director James B. Comey gave remarks about the bureau’s increased efforts to deal with violent crime in inner-city neighborhoods. Though there isn’t any one over-arching initiative the bureau is launching, Comey said, it is definitely putting more of its top agents on the issue. Comey blamed the heroin crisis gripping many areas of the country for some of the violence, as well as short-handed law enforcement departments in many municipalities. Interestingly, however, there is some disagreement as to whether a big spike in crime actually exists. While some cities have seen a spike in murders and shootings, some of those increases come over rock-bottom lows in previous years, and the overall picture is more complex. Here’s a pretty fascinating exploration of that dynamic.
• It goes without saying that national politics, including the election of U.S. representatives, is like a kinda shady game of chess. And it looks like outgoing House Speaker John Boehner is moving a few pieces around before he splits. Some sources say Boehner’s been active in pushing for Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds to take his District 8 seat in Congress. So far, a half-dozen GOP candidates have expressed interest in the seat, which will go to the winner of an as yet to be scheduled special election. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, Boehner has been making calls on Reynolds’ behalf and helping introduce the 46-year-old to big wigs in the party. Boehner is set to leave his perch Oct. 30, but has also promised not to leave until Republicans have found someone to replace him as house speaker, which, umm… could take a while.
• So here’s an awkward situation that could happen. What if Ohioans pass both Issue 3, ResponsibleOhio’s marijuana legalization effort, and Issue 2, lawmakers’ attempt to do an end-run around the legalization effort by outlawing monopolies like the one ResponsibleOhio is proposing? Statewide polling says that could happen. A poll out of Kent State University found that 54 percent of adults are planning to vote yes on Issue 2, and 56 percent are planning on voting yes for Issue 3. Obviously, this is just one poll, and it’s likely that some people are just a little confused at this point, but it brings up an interesting and thus far unanswered question: What happens if voters approve to conflicting amendments to the state’s constitution? The short version of that answer is that no one really knows, and it would likely trigger a long court battle. Proponents for both sides take issue with the poll, of course, saying their particular effort will prevail and the opposition will not, citing their own polling. With just weeks before the election, this one’s going to be interesting.
In the fall of 1946, sibling Country (or “Hillbilly,” as it was dubbed) singing duo The Delmore Brothers came to downtown Cincinnati to record a session at E. T. Herzog’s studios (where famed sides by Hank Williams, Patti Page, Ernest Tubbs, Flatt and Scruggs and numerous other legends also recorded) on Race Street. Beginning their career in the ’30s, the Alabama-bred brothers had become well known for their stunning harmonies, incorporating Gospel, Blues and Folk traditions into their Country stylings.
In the mid-to-late-’40s, Rabon and Alton Delmore’s sound began to shift towards something more innovative and modern. The duo was recording for King Records, the legendary Cincinnati institution that made (and, many say, changed) music history when it began releasing R&B records alongside its Country ones. The Delmores were a part of the bridge to this open blending of styles, something that ultimately helped lay the groundwork for the creation of Rock & Roll.
Many consider The Delmore Brothers’ indispensable contributions to the genre dubbed “Hillbilly Boogie,” which blended bluesy rhythms and chord structures into the Country aesthetic, a crucial building block that helped pave the way for Rockabilly and Rock & Roll.
Former Rock and Roll Hall of Fame curator Jim Henke is quoted as saying, “‘Hillbilly Boogie’ by the Delmore Brothers directly anticipated the development of Rockabilly and, later, Rock & Roll. With their close-knit harmonies and their guitar playing, the Delmores influenced the Everly Brothers and countless other Country, Rockabilly and Rock & Roll artists.”
During the Cincinnati sessions at Herzog, the Delmores cut tracks like “Boogie Woogie Baby” and the seminal “Freight Train Boogie,” one of the most distinct precursors to Rockabilly (some even call it the first Rock & Roll record).
This Saturday at 7 p.m., several area musicians will gather at the site of those early recordings (811 Race St., second floor, now the downtown headquarters of the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation) to celebrate their 69th anniversary and the Delmore’s huge contributions to music. The local musicians who will gather for "Delmore Day" to talk about and perform songs by The Delmore Brothers include Edwin P. Vardiman with Kelly Thomas, J. Dorsey, Big Bob Burns with Jeff Wilson, Margaret Darling, Joe Mitchell, Joe Prewitt and Don Miller, Elliott Ruther, Tim Combs, Mark Dunbar, Travis Frazier, David Rhodes Brown with Jared Schaedle and Ally Hurt.
The event is open to the public (fans of all ages are welcome) and free. Here is the Facebook event page for more info.
Good morning all. Here’s the news today. And no, I didn’t watch the Democratic presidential primary debate last night, the same way I didn’t watch the Republican one the night it aired. I get paid to think, read and write about politics from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or later) Monday through Friday. The last thing I want to do when I’m done is go home, pop the top off a beer and listen to some drab older folks who have dedicated their drab lives to drab electoral and policy chicanery talk about said drab chicanery. Bor-ing. I sat around and watched skate videos on Thrasher’s Instagram account instead. Milton Martinez for prez what up. That said, I’ve been watching the debate this morning while I’m on the clock. I’ll tell you about it at the bottom.
• But first, let’s talk local drama. There’s an enormous fan somewhere in the city, and yesterday some stuff definitely hit it. The fight over Issue 22, Mayor John Cranley’s proposed charter amendment to raise money for 16 big parks projects, got real, with opponents of the plan coming out of the woodwork.
Cincinnati attorney and anti-Issue 22 Save Our Parks member Timothy Mara put a letter in Cincinnati Parks Director Willie Carden’s mailbox yesterday calling the parks board out for a contribution to the Issue 22 booster campaign that Mara says is illegal and inappropriate. The Parks Board has pushed back against that assertion, saying that the funds came from an endowment, not tax dollars, and that the donation was perfectly legal. Mara is asking the parks board to take back the $200,000 donation, which was used to help fund a pro-amendment ad that features Cranley basically playing all the sports and passing a number of different balls to himself. Which is kind of an odd choice for the ad as far as narrative devices go, since opponents of the mayor’s proposal are basically accusing him of fiscal ball-hogging with the amendment.
Meanwhile, former Cincinnati vice mayor, longtime civil rights leader and former Issue 22 supporter Marian Spencer was on the radio talking about how she hung up on Cranley after a phone call from the mayor she says was rather discourteous. Key quote here: “I told him I’m 95 and no one tells me how to vote.” Dang. The mayor remembers the conversation differently, according to quotes posted by an Enquirer reporter on social media. He says that he was merely reminding Spencer that she would be the most prominent opponent of the parks plan if she came out against it. Phew. You can read all about the multiple back and forths, plus my reporting from the pretty informative and evenly matched Issue 22 debate held by The Cincinnati Enquirer Monday, in our story yesterday.
• Cincinnati City Council is set to vote today on whether or not to give City Manager Harry Black a $10,000 raise. This could be somewhat controversial, however, as the city hasn’t completed a required performance review on Black. The ordinance hiring Black set forth that requirement. Cranley, who recommends the raise, says he’s evaluated Black and found he deserves the extra money, but a review committee is supposed to undertake the performance evaluation with input from every member of Council. We’ll see if that proves a roadblock to Black’s pay bump, which would bring his salary up to about $256,000. I would like to add a friendly amendment to the mayor’s motion which gives me a $10,000 raise as well. I promise to spend it all on coneys or Rhinegeist or something else that boosts the local economy.
• Oh yeah. Some other big local stuff happened yesterday: A federal judge ruled that Cincinnati’s last women’s clinic performing abortions, the Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn, can stay open as it fights Ohio’s new abortion regulations. An earlier stay in orders to close the clinic, which was denied a license renewal by the Ohio Department of Health, expired yesterday. The new federal injunction will keep the clinic, and another in Dayton, open until Planned Parenthood’s federal court case challenging Ohio’s new abortion laws goes to trial next year. Here’s the full story, which per usual we reported first. Not that we’re keeping track or anything, because we don’t care about scoops or whatever real journalists call that stuff.
• While it’s really big news that the Mount Auburn and Dayton clinics have a temporary reprieve from the state breathing down their necks, there are more restrictions potentially on the way. The Ohio General Assembly is mulling three bills expected to pass by the end of the year that would further restrict abortion access in Ohio. One would strip all state funds from Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide abortions here. Another would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks. A third would outlaw all abortions due to a diagnosis of Down syndrome in a fetus. Ohio would be the first in the nation to pass such a law.
Conservative lawmakers behind the bills, which are currently in the Ohio Senate, acknowledge that they are attempting to eliminate abortion in the state. The effort mirrors a national move to defund Planned Parenthood: A showdown in Congress over taxpayer funding for abortion nearly shut down the federal government last month. All the hubbub stems from a series of videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal tissue for profit. Though a number of government investigations have found no wrongdoing on Planned Parenthood’s part, and though the videos in question and others used against the organization have been somewhat debunked, lawmakers say they want to make sure taxpayers aren’t contributing to organizations that provide abortions.
• Let’s go to the other end of the life spectrum, shall we? Here’s an interesting op-ed from a dyed-in-the-wool conservative who opposes the death penalty. It discusses several Ohio and Kentucky Republican lawmakers who are pushing to end capital punishment for a lot of reasons both practical and moral. Very interesting stuff, and worth a read. Surprised? You must have missed our feature on conservatives pushing to end Ohio’s death penalty, which is also worth perusing.
• We all need to lighten up. At least, that’s what Gov. John “Party Time” Kasich says. Kasich got some blowback last week after he told a young woman trying to ask a question at a University of Richmond campaign appearance that he didn’t have any Taylor Swift tickets for her. Kayla Solsbak then wrote an op-ed for the university paper about Kasich’s comment to her, which went viral. Note to Kasich: not how you win the youth vote. Anyway, at another campaign stop in New Hampshire yesterday, Kasich said he was tired of getting hassled for his jokes.
“Let’s also get a sense of humor back in America, OK,” he said to the crowd, which applauded. I mean, I don’t think it’s that America doesn’t have a sense of humor, though. I think it was just that Kasich’s jokes are pretty sexist and reductive of women, which isn’t anywhere near as funny as, say, making fun of yourself for being out of touch, which Kasich could also easily do. Anyway, Kasich says the negative attention is good and that he’s just, like, trying to be his authentic self. To paraphrase: haters gonna hate, I’ma do me. Which is a pretty hipster thing to say, so maybe he is in touch with us Millenials after all.
• So back to the Democratic presidential primary debate last night. What can you say, really? Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn’t mess up, keeping her frontrunner status. And she raised debate around Planned Parenthood and other women’s issues that sorely need to be talked about. But she also didn’t put any nails in the coffin of her nearest contender U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, either, and he’ll likely see a surge in interest, even though he didn’t outright win this round.
Meanwhile, Sanders, the independent running as a Democrat who says he’s a socialist (got that?) pretty much ran over Clinton when it came to his signature issues of income inequality, financial industry regulation and campaign finance reform. But he didn’t really branch out from those and lay claim to any new ground, which has some pundits wondering if he can really make himself look presidential before next November. He also came across as kind of hawkish, saying he would take the U.S. into war if necessary, and was wishy-washy on gun control, both of which could hobble him with the progressives he’s supposed to be rallying. Clinton, who has about the most hawkish record a Democrat can have, didn’t best him here, but she didn’t really need to.
Oh, and there were other candidates, too. Jim Webb mostly complained about how long he’d been waiting to answer questions (10 minutes is an eternity, right?) and divulged that he killed an enemy soldier in battle. The prime takeaway from Lincoln Chafee’s 10 minutes total of speaking time during the two-hour debate was that he’s managed to not be involved in any scandals (good job, Chaf!) and Martin O’Malley said little that would give him a breakthrough moment. So that’s that.
I’m out. See you later. In the meantime, get at me via email or Twitter.
Andrew Garfield, the actor most famous for his portrayal of Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the not-so-amazing The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, has a lot going for him. He first came onto the scene when he brought Eduardo Saverin to life and put a tasteful pulse of humanity into David Fincher’s sublimely cold-blooded The Social Network back in 2010, for which he picked up a Golden Globe supporting actor nomination. As if that wasn’t enough, he also makes up a half of a very formidable Hollywood power couple with Emma Stone. So, with the world at his fingertips, on the brink of bona fide stardom, Andrew Garfield decided to star in a relatively small-budget limited release directed by Ramin Bahrani, 99 Homes.
The picture is a small-time crime flick with a modern angle pitted around Garfield’s lead character, Dennis Nash. When Nash’s work as a roofer runs out, he and his mother and his son are evicted from their longtime family home. They are forced to move into a hotel, and their funds are running out when Nash goes to the office of the real estate agent that evicted his family to recover stolen tools. But when his allegations are denied, Nash instead finds himself carrying out repair jobs for the local real estate operator, Rick Carver — the very man who evicted Nash and his family. By the end of the day, Nash agrees to continue his work with Carver, and before you can say, “Here we go,” things begin to spiral out of control.
Carver is not an honest real estate mogul, and he isn’t personable in even the simplest of ways. “Don’t get personal about real estate,” he repeats throughout the film. It contradicts the very reason that Nash is so desperate to make more money working for Carver. For Nash, having a house isn’t a financial opportunity to flip for profit later on. It is an opportunity to keep his son from living in a run-down motel, and to keep his mother in a space where she can run her personal hairstyling business. It is an opportunity to keep from being woken at night by screaming motel-stayers. An opportunity to live somewhere that your son is not constantly barraged with the smell of cigarette smoke. To keep your son in the same school with his friends. To give your family a future.
The socio-economic and values-based chasm between the two characters is extreme. While Nash is a down-on-his-luck blue-collar type with a conscious and a family he so desperately wants to provide for, Carver uses the county map as a board for what he describes as “a rigged game. By the winners, of the winners, for the winners.” Carver also could give a damn about his family — he cheats, and treats his daughters like dogs who prefer ice cream to Beggin’ Strips. Rather than spend quality time with his kids, he spends quality cash on them to cover up any wounds.
Nash’s somewhat reluctant assistantship to Carver grows into a prominent role for the former roofer, who spends his days stealing appliances from government-owned homes, evicting squatters and re-selling the previously stolen appliances. The story serves to propose a series of unasked questions regarding the morality of such eviction processes. When Carver removes personal desires and factors from home owning, he tilts into the realm of the sociopath, treating unfortunate eviction subjects as hindrances to monetary gain rather than victims of monetary gain gone wild. Carver is a one-dimensional, single-minded dickhead of a boss, sharply played by veteran actor Michael Shannon. Shannon astutely narrows in on what makes Rick Carver tick. Cold, pragmatic and impatient, Carver seems practically impervious to psychological analysis. He is a monster much at home in a world where money is lord and people are only peasants whose purpose is to serve the royalty.
But where does 99 Homes bring Andrew Garfield’s career? Does it give him the opportunity to truly dominate a lead dramatic role? I’m not so sure. He is on point, and feels authentic as the poor working-class hero Dennis Nash, which is surprising considering Garfield’s background playing a multi-millionaire venture capitalist in The Social Network and Spider-Man. I understand that Nash is desperate to restore some sort of dignity to his family’s life. I believe him when he briefly grieves over his son changing schools. But I wasn’t clinging to him. I didn’t feel any sense of desperation at the prospect of his losing out to the system rigged against him. I felt compelled to care, but I didn’t feel I would be crushed by a horrific outcome. There is still something else to explore with Nash, and I don’t think we saw it ourselves. Andrew Garfield gets a good role in 99 Homes, but it might not be the role that he’s been searching for. He gets a ton of screen time and a winner’s share of the script. He pulls off a subtle Floridian accent that is noticeable but non-invasive, and he really knows how to get us to panic every once in a while. But I couldn’t bring myself to declare Garfield an absolute winner for his job-well-done in 99 Homes.
99 Homes is pretty solid. The film, the lead role and its lead actor have something in common. They are all only a few steps from greatness. But I can’t tell you that I’m sure how they might get there. For now, and for Andrew Garfield, hopefully good enough will just have to do. Grade: B-
Good morning Cincy! With Thanksgiving nearly upon us, people are ducking out of office early today (if they even show up at all), including journalists. Here are some headlines to hold you over this holiday weekend.
• University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono requested that the Facebook page of the supposed UC White Student Union be shut down. The page has been linked to a white supremacy group, and nearly identical Facebook pages have been popping up in universities across the country. Ono said in an email sent out to students and staff that while he supports the freedom of speech, that the group was polarizing and distracting attention away from important racial issues that need to be discussed.
• What's crazier than buying a $500,000 condo in Over-The-Rhine? Well, many, many things, but one of those things may be buying a $1 million townhouse in Over-The-Rhine. Cincinnati's Historic Conservation Board approved plans Monday for the construction of nine single-family townhomes near 15th and Elm, which will include two bedrooms, a two-car garage and a covered second floor deck. The $10 million project by Daniel Homes also includes renovating an old fire station on 15th street for residential and possibly commercial use.
• The greater Cincinnati area's jobless rate continues to fall. In the 15 counties in the region, which includes Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana, the percent of unemployed workers fell nearly 17 percent. Butler, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren counties all have jobless rates at 4.2 percent than the national average hangs a bit higher at 4.8 percent. The drop might not be as drastic as all those prices during those terrible Black Friday sales, but it is the area's lowest jobless rate since March 2001.
• U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat representing Ohio, said last Thursday that not all terrorists are abroad--or even foreigners. While Republicans have ganged up on Syrian refugees in the past week and a half, Sherrod said that "generally white males" are responsible for terrorist attacks. He's calling the mass shootings in public areas like schools and movie theaters that the U.S. has experienced in the last decad, terror attacks as well--just by another kind of terrorist. He pointed out that a major terrorist attack hasn't happen on U.S. soil since September 11, but plenty of shooting have happened by people that "look more like me than they look like Middle Easterners"--a viewpoint that appears unlikely to be adopted by any Republicans pushing for the halt of Syrian refugees any time soon.
• Chicago police released the dash camera footage of the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by police officers while running down a street in October 2014. Officer Jason Van Dyke, who opened fire on the teen, is being held without bond for first degree murder. Hundred of protesters marched peacefully in the streets of Chicago last night after the release of the video, and with many were angry about the long delay in the release of the video to the public.
Send me story tips. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
There’s nothing like being greeted by the bright echoes of music as you step inside from the pouring rain. On this particular day I was visiting the main branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County for the monthly Jazz of the Month Club performance, featuring the Jamey Aebersold Quartet. It wasn’t hard to find the musicians, since their tunes bounced all around the library atrium, and as I slipped into my seat I settled down and let the warm jazz beats warm my cold body.
The Jamey Aebersold Quartet, the third performer in the Jazz of the Month Club, featured an extremely talented group of musicians, led by an award-winning Jazz master and educator. Jamey Aebersold, who led the group on the alto sax, received the 2014 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Award, the highest jazz honor in America. A native of New Albany, Ind., Aebersold has been playing Jazz for more than 50 years, and has gained international recognition as a Jazz musician and educator. It was perhaps the educator in him that couldn’t resist adding tidbits of the pieces and artists they performed.
The quartet played several Jazz tunes, including “Lament” by J.J. Johnson, “Hi-Fly” by Randy Weston and “In a Sentimental Mood” by Duke Ellington, one of the most famous Jazz compositions. As I listened to the lively beats I couldn’t help but look around at the rest of the audience. While a couple people slept in the back row, most were intently focused on the performers, nodding their heads, tapping their toes or even dancing in their seats. Peeking out at passersby, I noticed a few that were even dancing as they walked, and I saw more than one librarian sneak a peek between tasks.
At one point, Aebersold pulled a Jamaican pianist into the performance and gave him a rehearsal for their next song in “be-dos,” singing the melody in gibberish. As strange as that seemed, Aebersold’s next instruction confused me further: “There’s a two-bar break on bar…something. You’ll hear it.” While we all laughed, I couldn’t help but wonder how the pianist could follow those instructions, but to my amazement he jumped right in without missing a beat, improvising as if he’d known the tune all along.
As a Jazz enthusiast, it was wonderful to hear the different styles of Jazz played in a way that drew crowds from all sections of the library. Older adults sat patiently through the program while younger audiences slipped in and out. But no matter how long they stayed, all seemed to leave with an expression of peace and pleasure at the simple but beautiful tunes wafting through the building. It was evidence of what Aebersold described by saying, “The world’s a mess. But we can make it better by playing some music.”Did this event sound interesting? Check out similar programs at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Main Branch:
Hey Cincy. Hope you’re winding down your work week. It’s T-minus two days 'til turkey time, which also happens to be my birthday this year. I’m hyped for both. Oh, and if you want to get your favorite reporter a b-day gift, I’ll take a pair of these in size 8.5 thx. Huh. Now you know my shoe size, which is kind of creepy.
But here’s something awesome: There will be tons of political fodder for you to argue awkwardly about around the dinner table with your family this Thanksgiving. Consider this news update your guide to all the best terrible conversations you’ll be having soon.
• You can start with something mild, like debating whether or not Mayor John Cranley should have gotten off the hook for his election-day outburst at a polling location in Avondale. OK, “outburst” is a little harsh. The Cran-man just got a bit over-enthusiastic about Issue 22, the parks tax proposal, and shouted out that people should vote yes on it a couple times. Who doesn’t like to see enthusiasm for the democratic process? But uh, campaigning and telling people how to vote in a polling place is pretty firmly against the rules, especially when you’re a political figure. Despite that, the Hamilton County Board of Elections yesterday announced that it will not be seeking any penalties against the mayor for his breach of the rules. Pollworker Mary Siegel argued that the BOE should start cracking down on such electioneering infractions in the future, because the rules are rarely enforced now.
• If the ensuing argument about that doesn’t heat things up while you’re waiting for the turkey to finish cooking, try talking with your conservative Uncle Jeff about the University of Cincinnati white student union that was set up on Facebook a few days ago. The group’s posts feature prognosticating on how “European Americans” face special challenges on campus and in society in general and other nonsensical claptrap designed to draw people into useless race-related Internet debates. Anyway, the page is almost certainly fake, set up in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to a plan hatched on a national white supremacist message board. The UC-themed page uses language almost identical to similar sites across the country, many of the likes on the page’s posts come from out of town Facebook accounts and the whole thing comes across as a reminder not to feed the trolls. So, uh, don’t feed the trolls. Meanwhile, there are more serious and terrifying anti-Black Lives Matter incidents happening of late.
• Just a couple days after Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, dropped a bombshell by revealing he’s decided not to run for reelection, three Cincinnati City Council members are saying they’re considering running for his seat. Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn have both expressed some interest, with Winburn saying he could switch from a planned run for county recorder to the commission race if the party wants him to. Murray has said she’ll take the Thanksgiving holiday to think it over before deciding, but is intrigued. Meanwhile, independent Christopher Smitherman has said he might run as a Republican for the seat. Whoever the Hamilton County GOP taps will face Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus of Clifton, who is leaving the state House due to term limits.
• The second Cincinnati streetcar arrives today and will soon be making test trips around the 3.6-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown. This argument pretty much scripts itself, so just say "streetcar" to your public transit-hating dad and watch the holiday magic unfold.
• Black leaders from across the state met yesterday at The Urban League of Greater Cincinnati headquarters in Avondale to discuss the state of black Ohio. The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, which includes local politicians State Sen. Cecil Thomas and State Rep. Alicia Reece, held the public meeting in part to discuss the wide disparities facing the black community here and across the state. Ohio ranks second-to-last in the nation in infant mortality rates, according to the caucus. Closer to home, the group singled out continued issues at the University of Cincinnati, which has been the site of serious racial dialogue around disparities in higher education. The group also discussed efforts toward police reform, which have been slow in coming even after several high-profile police shootings of unarmed black citizens here and a task force convened by Gov. John Kasich. You can read more about how activists are continuing to fight for those reforms in this week’s news feature.
• GOP presidential primary contender Donald Trump came to Ohio yesterday. He didn’t talk as much shit about Ohio Gov. John Kasich as he has in the past. Per usual, his speech was light on policy proposals and heavy on bombast. What else really needs to be said? His remarks to a crowd of 10,000 mostly focused on how the U.S. has become “soft and weak” (despite spending more on its military than all other countries combined) and about how he’s leading in all major polls (sadly, this claim is actually true). He also gave a shout out to waterboarding, the controversial torture technique once used by the U.S. to extract intelligence from terrorism suspects. Trump’s all for bringing it back. Another thing Trump likes, according to his hour-long remarks: lists. As in, lists of people who are Muslim, which Trump thinks should be compiled by the federal government. Thanksgiving family debate difficulty level: black diamond.
• Finally, Indiana Governor Mike Pence faces a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union over his refusal to take in Syrian refugees. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Exodus Refugee Immigration, the Indianapolis nonprofit that handles refugee resettlement for the state. Pence pressured that organization to turn away Syrian refugees earlier this month. The ACLU says in doing so, he violated both the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act. This would be a great topic to discuss with your cousin Tami, who has that Gadsen flag bumper sticker on her Hummer.
That’s it for me. Later!
That old trope about doers doing and non-doers teaching holds no currency with saxophonist Dave McDonnell. The Chicago native relocated to Cincinnati six years ago to complete his doctorate Jazz studies at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, which ultimately led to positions at UC and the University of Dayton, teaching both music and music technology.
At the same time, McDonnell never abandoned his love for performance, composition and recording. Early in his Jazz career, McDonnell divided his time between waiting tables, teaching private music lessons and playing in an impossible number of bands; he even worked with Elephant 6 icons Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control (studio sessions with the former, touring with the latter).
Family life and academic rigors forced McDonnell to dial down his band participation — he currently works with Michael Columbia, Diving Bell and Herculaneum — but his reduced roles also provided him the impetus to resume exploring his own work, leading him to assemble a coterie of friends and bandmates from his Chicago experience (guitarist Chris Welcome, bassist Joshua Abrams, drummer Frank Rosaly, vibraphonist Jason Adaiewicz and cellist Tomeka Reid) and form the Dave McDonnell Group.
Utilizing a blend of crafted and precise composition and free-form improvisation, McDonnell created a masterful and acclaimed debut album, last year's the dragon and the griffin. The album was by turns contemplative and explosive, but always guided by the spirit of Ornette Coleman's similarly constructed pieces, where the tunes' purposefully written passages set the tone and established a foundation and framework for the band's circuitously invigorating spontaneity.
Just a little over a year and a half later, McDonnell and his Group (a version of which features Cincinnati players for area live shows) have returned, once again eschewing upper-case titling and stodgy tradition on the appropriately christened the time inside a year, his debut for esteemed Chicago Jazz label Delmark. While McDonnell adheres to his winning compositional-vs.-improvisational strategy on the time inside a year, he also adds a new wrinkle with a slightly older piece from his canon, namely his three-movement suite "AEpse," which grew out of his doctorate studies at CCM and which he debuted in Chicago two years ago.
"AEpse" stands in contrast to the grooves, shifting rhythms and dazzlingly intricate harmonics of the rest of the time inside a year. "AEpse," as a three-part, 11-minute piece of music, explores a chilly soundscape of electronic expanse, appointed by Reid's mesmerizing cello incantations, which drift through McDonnell's constructed atmosphere like smoke in a virtual opium den. But rather than present this sonorously beautiful piece as a whole, McDonnell chose to intersperse the three "AEpse" movements within his gyrational Bop tracklist, allowing them to serve as way stations along the album's journey.
And what an impressive journey it proves to be. Opening with the quietly propulsive "Bullitt," moving into the slinkily engaging and sensual "Vox Orion" and on to the jaunty "The Contract with Bees," McDonnell displays his considerable skills as both a powerful frontman and a generous bandleader, jumping to the fore with appropriately frenetic flurries of notes or delicately woven passages, or yielding the floor to Adasiewicz's fluid and enchanting vibraphone runs or Welcome's always brilliant guitar contributions, all of it made possible by the gymnastics of Abrams and Rosaly's limber and diverse rhythm section.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the swinging, shattering "Baker's Man," which begins and ends with the band in unison on the song's loping theme and fills its center with a dissonant Sun Ra/Zappa/Beefheart explosion of sounds and ideas. As atypical as it is sonically to the rest of the time inside a year, it perfectly points up McDonnell's incredible compositional skills and DMG's extraordinary ability to go completely off the map and then return to the radar in a fraction of a heartbeat.
Cincinnati has enjoyed a long and storied Jazz tradition, spawning some of the most profoundly talented and inventive players in the country, but even its most revered alumni must be sitting up and taking notice of the jaw-dropping accomplishments of Dave McDonnell and his innovative and musically curious Jazz collective. Clearly McDonnell's depth and breadth of experience informs every second of the Dave McDonnell Group's incredible output, but it is the application of that experience to his own work that is so consistently impressive. Two years and two albums in, and the anticipation of where DMG might head next is palpable and exciting.
THE DAVE MCDONNELL GROUP, with guitarist Brad Myers, bassist Peter Gemus and drummer Dan Dorff, plays Urban Artifact on Tuesday at 8 p.m.
Good morning, Cincinnati! Hope y'all are ready for a short work week followed by some binge eating!
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann is officially not running for re-election next year. Hartmann, who has served as commissioner for the last seven years, announced his decision in an email Saturday. He stated his main motivation was to allow new leadership in the position in what he calls "a self-imposed term limit." Hartmann's decision came as a surprise, as the conservative Republican was already raising money to run against State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Clifton), who chose to run for commissioner upon hitting a real term limit after serving in the state House for eight years. Hartmann told the Enquirer he had been thinking about not running for the past year. Republicans have yet to present another candidate for the position.
• Another federal housing project might be coming to Cincinnati that would give government housing agencies flexibility to test local projects using federal dollars. The arrival of the 19-year-old federal program Moving to Work is pending the U.S. Senate's approval of appropriations bill that would extend the program to 39 different agencies. The program targets programs that reduce the costs of other programs and incentivize families to prepare for work. Some local activists and experts aren't so thrilled with program's possible arrival. Critics of the program say that the local agencies' programs that receive the flexible federal dollars aren't subjected to enough evaluations to prove their effectiveness, therefore letting ineffective, and even damaging programs, slide by.
• A new program looking to get guns off the streets of Cincinnati will launch its second round today. The program, run by the nonprofit Street Rescue, will set up in Brown Chapel AME Church on Alms Place from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. allowing community members to trade their unwanted guns for $50 and $100 grocery gift cards, no questions asked. The program was developed by local residents who aim to get illegal guns off the street following the city's recent spike in violent crime. They collected seven guns during their first drive in October.
• Cincinnati City Councilman and Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld is still in the race, much to the dismay of political experts. Sittenfeld's campaign against Republican Rob Portman has been largely overshadowed since former Democratic Ohio governor Ted Strickland jumped in the race. The Ohio Democratic Party gave Strickland its endorsement last April. But Sittenfeld held on and has launched recent attacks against both candidates for issues like gun control. Strickland is much better known around the state than Sittenfeld, who isn't recognized much outside of Cincinnati.
• Finally, Brussels is lockdown as authorities sweep the city for terrorism suspects. Authorities have even requested residents refrain from posting messages that expose the whereabouts of police on social media. So rather than give up social media for the extent of the operations, Belgians have banded together by posting pictures of cats, the Internet's favorite animal. Cat memes have popped up all over Belgian's social media accounts poking fun of the tense operation.
There was little reading happening at the Boone County Public Library on Native American Day on Nov. 14. A life-size tipi sat on the lawn of the main branch, and inside the sound of drums carried from the second floor. In a corner of the children’s area sat craft tables where kids could make pinch pots out of clay, and Sioux dancers wandered around in traditional dress and face paint.November, which is Native American Heritage Month, was the perfect time to host this event, although it took library staff several months of planning to get it ready. Adult Programmer Kathy Utz says this was the first-ever Native American Day at the library. “This is totally an experiment for us,” she says. “It’s really turned out to be a good program, and people are interested in it.” Utz added that one of the library’s goals is to expose the community to different cultures. “We always like to broaden the horizon of Boone County and to see something they haven’t seen before,” she said. They certainly achieved the desired effect, for as I wandered through the various stations, I can honestly say I’d never before experienced so much Native American culture in one place.
Chaske Hotain, a group of Sioux drummers, performed with brothers and sisters from around the country, beating the rhythms of their ancestors. Wearing their traditional dress, the dancers presented various Native American styles, at times inviting the audience to join them as they circled gracefully inside the wide perimeter of chairs. “It’s great … I’ve never been to a powwow or anything like that before, so I didn’t know what to expect,” says Kaitlin Barber, public service associate with the library’s local history department and the one who arranged the demonstration. “It’s really surpassed my expectations.” Outside the crowd was just as enthralled, and children could scarcely contain their excitement to enter the life-size tipi. It was surprising how many could fit into what looked like a small space — as I stood there I watched at least 30 people file in and settle comfortably on the floor. As I listened in I heard the owner, Tim Deane of Morristown, Tenn., describe the hand-made, authentic Sioux articles inside.No matter which corner of the library you found yourself, there was something exciting to greet you. Patrons and performers alike took advantage of the vibrant atmosphere, and all around I could see the results of exposure to a different culture. This is what Jordan Padgett, youth services programmer, says the library strives to provide: “That is part of what we do here at the library, is really engage the community and reach them where they’re at. [And] providing stuff that amplifies what they’re already learning is a big key.”
Several of our local theaters produce shows this time of year that are a kind of antidote to the usual fare of A Christmas Carol and other happy, merry tales. Three get under way this weekend:
I went to a rockin’ party earlier this week, and you can, too — if you turn up for the Cincinnati Playhouse’s production of Low Down Dirty Blues, through Dec. 20. That’s right, a whole month of good times and sad in the intimate Shelterhouse Theater, doubling as Big Mama’s after-hours Blues bar. Every year around this time the Playhouse puts on a show as an alternate holiday choice to A Christmas Carol (which gets underway next week). This year it’s a warm-hearted good time featuring three excellent singers and a couple of very accomplished Jazz musicians (especially local Jazz pianist Steve Schmidt) performing off-color tunes, full of double-entendres and scandalous joking. The first half of the two-hour performance is mostly about lusty interaction via tunes like “Rough and Ready Man,” “I Got My Mojo Workin’ ” and “You Bring Out the Boogie in Me.” After intermission the party continues briefly (including some cute audience interaction to the tune of “I’m Not That Kind of Girl” — but then the tone darkens with passionate songs of grief (“Death Letter”), mourning (“Good Morning Heartache”) and then hope (“Change is ’Gonna Come”). Felicia P. Fields, a Broadway veteran who played a major role in the original staging of The Color Purple, anchors (and I use that word quite literally) the banter and the singing, but she is ably matched by Caron “Sugaray” Rayford, a massive force of energy, perspiration and rhythm. Chic Street Man sings and plays several guitars (especially a steel number with a gorgeous ring), and his sly, sinuous presence is a perfect complement to Fields’ and Rayford’s more ebullient performances. Don’t go if you’re offended by sexual innuendo, but if you’re looking for a “low down dirty” time, call now for a ticket: 513-421-3888
One of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies, As You Like It, is the first step of holiday happiness at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. The story of tomfoolery and romance in the Forest of Arden kicks off tonight; it’s around until Dec. 12, when it’s followed by the tenth annual staging of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some). In case you missed it, Cincy Shakes announced this week that by mid-2017 it moves to its own spectacular new space in Washington Park, the Otto M. Budig Theatre, with nearly 100 more seats than its Race Street facility. (Read my story in this week's issue for more.) Until then, you need to line up for tickets, since many of the company’s performances sell out quickly. Tickets: 513-381-2273
Another “kind of” holiday show getting started is Know Theatre’s production of All Childish Things, opening tonight and onstage through Dec. 19. In a story set right here in Cincinnati (Norwood, in fact), it’s 2006 and two guys are still yearning for the galactic adventures promised by Star Wars when they were kids. One guy lives in his mom’s basement; the other has a girlfriend who could care less about The Force. They think their big break might be residing in a warehouse full of collectible Star Wars memorabilia. Zany shows rooted in childhood have become a holiday staple at Know Theatre, and this is right up that weird, happy alley. Tickets: 513-300-5669
And if you’re really longing to get the holidays under way, you have the perfect opportunity with a tour stop by a production of White Christmas at the Aronoff (next Tuesday through Dec. 6). It’s a stage version of the popular film; the tour features stage Cincinnati and Broadway veteran Pamela Myers in a cute, outspoken role. She performs a number titled “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy,” a perfect summary of her illustrious career. Tickets: 513-621-2787
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
Good morning all. Hope you’re hyped for the weekend. I’m going to see Jens Lekman at the Woodward tonight, so I totally am. Music isn’t my beat and you should probably just read our article on the show after we talk about news. But for now, let’s get to it.
The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT rights organization, has established today as the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day designed to draw attention to the often-forgotten violence faced by transgender people in America. At least 98 hate crimes against people based on their gender identity were reported in 2014, according to FBI hate crimes statistics. This year, trans people have been victims of nearly two dozen murders. Trans people in Cincinnati are no exception and face harsh violence, even murder.
• Why did former Cincinnati State President O’dell Owens leave so suddenly back in September? Turns out the answer is partly about money and partly about interpersonal politics, as so many answers are. Owens, who was once Hamilton County coroner and now serves as the director of the Cincinnati Health Department, was being asked to undertake 10 in-person fundraising meetings a week on behalf of the college. That fundraising schedule is unusual, education experts say. Other duties generally given to a college president were in the process of being assigned to a newly hired chief operating officer.
Despite exceeding his fundraising goals — Owens says he raised $1.73 million last year, hundreds of thousands of dollars more than he was expected to raise — and gaining praise from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Owens says he continued to receive pushback from some of the college’s board members. The tension culminated in an angry phone call from board chair Cathy Crain. Owens says Crain raised her voice to him in a call about a statement he made to the Cincinnati Enquirer on a possible tax levy for the school. After that incident, he began to consider leaving Cincinnati State. More money, more problems, or something.
• So, Cincinnati is definitely living in the age of re-urbanization, with more folks flocking back to the city. But while the general stereotype is that young professionals drive the demand for urban living spaces, it looks like baby boomers hitting retirement age are pushing a condo boom in Cincinnati as well. Older folks are interested in living in the city after their kids (finally) move out and they don’t need quite so much space, some developers say. Increased demand from empty nesters has informed new condo projects in places like Hyde Park. Side note: When I first saw the headline of that WCPO article, I read it as “condor demand picks up” and thought owning a bird of prey was some new hipster, Royal Tenenbaums-throwback thing I missed.
• As a journalist I’m supposed to be cold and dead inside without preference or favoritism for anything. I generally do OK with that, but if I have two weak spots, they are bicycles and beer. So I might not be qualified to report on this next thing objectively, but here goes: Cincinnati’s Fifty West Brewing Co. is expanding and, in the process, folding in the Oakley Cycles shop, a high-end bicycle retailer that will move from Observatory Avenue to Fifty West’s campus in Columbia Township. Fifty West and Oakley Cycles representatives both say they’re looking to provide a new, community-oriented experience for visitors while taking advantage of the Fifty West facility’s proximity to local bike trails. Fifty West will also be expanding capacity to brew four times as much beer as it does now. This is all pretty great.
• What else is happening? GOP presidential primary contender and perennially red-faced and slightly sweaty verbal combatant Donald Trump has set his sights on equally red-faced and sweaty fellow Republican candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The two have been having a war of words via Twitter, which… well, that’s where we’re at as a country these days and I’m really just too depressed to continue typing about this. Check it out if you want.
Kasich has also drawn some attention for his suggestion that the United States create a federal government agency charged with spreading Judeo-Christian values across the globe. That sounds like a great plan that has absolutely zero constitutional or moral problems, right? Once again, I’m just going to let you read the story.
• Finally, a small group of Syrian refugees resettled in Kentucky this week despite political furor over such resettlements after the attacks on Paris last week by ISIS. Most of the eight attackers were French or Belgian, but at least one Syrian passport was found at the scene of one of the attacks, fueling apprehensions that some of the four million refugees fleeing Syria are allied with ISIS, the militant Islamic group that has claimed control of large parts of Iraq and Syria.
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would add extra levels of scrutiny to Iraqi and Syrian refugees before they can resettle in the United States on top of the U.S. State Department’s already months- or years-long vetting process. Those new requirements would effectively halt refugee resettlement of those groups in the U.S. The bill faces stiff opposition in the Senate, and President Barack Obama has vowed to veto it should it pass there. The House’s version of the bill passed with a veto-proof two-thirds majority. The Senate would need to pass it with a similar margin to override Obama’s veto ability.
If you’re interested in learning more about the refugee resettlement process from the perspective of an Iraqi family that settled in Cincinnati, check out our cover story earlier this year on refugees here.
I’m out. Enjoy your weekend!