Gov. John Kasich is touting half a million dollars in tax cuts in his new budget proposal, released Feb. 2. But Ohio’s tax scheme could get more regressive if state lawmakers take it up as is.
The budget proposal would lower income taxes by 23 percent over the next two years and pay for it by raising sales taxes by .5 percent. All told, the proposal means $500 million less in taxes for Ohio residents.
Critics say lower-income residents will benefit least from the proposal. Kasich’s budget allows for a tax exemption increase for as many as 3 million low-income Ohio workers. But that exemption would mean only an extra few dollars per paycheck for most low-income families, according to most analyses. Another part of Kasich's budget proposal would require those making just over the poverty level (a bit more than $11,500 for a single person) to pay premiums on Medicaid. Those premiums would start at about $10 to $20.
Among the biggest moves in Kasich's proposal: a plan that would effectively eliminate the state’s income tax for more than 900,000 people who own small businesses grossing less than $2 million a year.
Studies suggest that the bottom fifth of Ohio earners pay nearly 7 percent of their income in sales taxes, while the top fifth of Ohio earners pay less than 1 percent of their income. A study conducted by liberal-leaning think tank Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy found Ohio to have the 18th most regressive tax structure in the country.
"The Ohio income tax is critical to a fair tax system and one that pays for education, health and other key services," said Wendy Patton, a director at Policy Matters Ohio, in a January statement about the state’s tax structure. "Attempts to weaken it will either redistribute income from the poor and the middle class to the rich, or cut needed public services."
When Kasich took office, the income tax rate was nearly 6 percent and Ohio’s sales tax was 5.5 percent, though state lawmakers boosted it to 5.75 percent in 2013. Under Kasich’s new budget proposal, income tax will be just over 4 percent and sales tax will be 6.25 percent.
Conservatives have also criticized the budget. Critics on the right, including tea party-aligned state lawmakers, say most of the changes aren’t cuts, they’re “tax shifting” that doesn’t result in the state spending less money.
Kasich’s plan does call for some measures that could help lower-income residents, including raising the income level at which parents can qualify for subsidies on child care. Other parts of the budget progressives might find more amenable include an increase on taxes associated with fracking.
Correction: due to a typo, an earlier version of this post said Ohio's sales tax rate will be 6.5 percent. This has been corrected to 6.25 percent.
It sounds a little like an episode of a zany sitcom: a tea partying conservative from Kentucky and a classic California liberal team up to clean up some roads.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced Jan. 29 that he and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., would introduce a bill seeking to shore up the nation’s federal Highway Trust Fund. The announcement comes as fights over what to do about the nation’s looming infrastructure needs hit close to home.
The federal fund that helps pay for highway, bridge and transit projects could face insolvency this year if Congress doesn’t find new sources of money for infrastructure. In Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, local and state officials are currently wrangling over the $2.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge replacement project. The bridge is more than 50 years old and carries 160,000 cars a day — four times more than it was designed to hold. Cincinnati’s 83-year-old Western Hills Viaduct will also need to be replaced in the next decade at a cost of $240 million. Studies by engineers have found that both bridges are structurally obsolete, though not immediately unsafe. Federal funds could go a long way toward making those projects reality.
"I am pleased to be working with Senator Boxer on a bipartisan solution to a tax and highway spending problem,” Paul said in a statement. “The interstate highway system is of vital importance to our economy. All across the country, bridges and roads are deficient and in need of replacement.”
Paul and Boxer’s bill proposes what is, in effect, a corporate tax cut: lowering the U.S. repatriation rate, or tax rate for foreign earnings, in order to incentivize U.S. companies to bring money back into the U.S. economy from foreign tax shelters. The proposed law would allow companies to voluntarily repatriate some of the estimated $2 trillion in off-shore corporate profits at a discounted tax rate of 6.5 percent. The program would require companies use that repatriated money to help build the economy. The money must be used for hiring or research and development, for instance, instead of executive raises. Taxes from the repatriated funds would go into the federal Highway Trust Fund for roads, bridges and other transit projects.
Paul did not mention regional projects like the Brent Spence Bridge specifically in statements about the proposal, though he has been active in the past in working to secure funding for replacing the bridge. It’s unclear if and when such projects would see a benefit from the bill, or exactly how much money it would raise should it pass into law.
A U.S. Chamber of Commerce study conducted on a similar proposal in 2013 found that the move could boost America’s economy by more than $400 billion, according to a white paper released by the senators. President Barack Obama put a similar plan in his budget proposal, which he unveiled Feb. 2.
There are other proposals for shoring up infrastructure funds, both on the national level and here in the Tristate. Some in Congress have called for raising the gas tax, which currently helps pay for federal road and bridge maintenance. The rate hasn’t been raised since the early 1990s. But congressional Republicans, led by House Speaker John Boehner, have signaled they won’t support an increase.
On the state level, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear have drafted their own plans for replacing the Brent Spence Bridge here. The two say the project can’t wait much longer — they cite an estimate by engineers saying that the project gets $7 million more expensive every month — and that the federal government won’t come to the rescue any time soon. Their proposal involves a public-private partnership that would necessitate tolls, however, something that has caused bipartisan consternation in Northern Kentucky. Many officials there are dead set against tolls, which they say will hurt workers and businesses. That’s tipped Northern Kentucky United, an anti-toll group, toward Paul’s idea.
“There are details yet to be worked out, but the similarities between what the President has suggested and the bipartisan proposal out of the Senate gives us good reason to be optimistic,” said Marisa McNee of Northern Kentucky United. “There is simply no reason to continue a rush to toll the Brent Spence Bridge when the White House and Congress appear to be moving towards an agreement on the Highway Trust Fund.”
Kasich, on the other hand, likened counting on funds from the federal government to waiting on the tooth fairy in a news conference last week on his proposal.
Paul and Boxer are a surprising team. Paul, a tea party favorite and potential candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, usually takes highly conservative, libertarian stances on policy and spending matters. Boxer, on the other hand, is one of the chamber’s most liberal members. In her 32-year career in Congress, first as a representative and then as a senator, she fought for tighter gun control, more environmental protection measures and pro-choice causes. Boxer, who is 74, announced last month that she will not seek re-election.
“I hope this proposal will jumpstart negotiations on addressing the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, which is already creating uncertainty that is bad for businesses, bad for workers and bad for the economy,” Boxer said in a statement about the bill. “I will also be working … on other proposals to pay for rebuilding our nation's aging transportation infrastructure."
For many Cincinnati natives, seeing Jess Lamb perform her audition in Kansas City for the American Idol judges was the first time they had ever heard her powerful and emotive voice or seen her honest, determined spirit. But for anyone who has their ears to the ground in Cincinnati’s local music scene (or has drunkenly wandered into Japps on a Tuesday night) knew that Lamb was more than ready for the limelight. Lamb has been performing all across town for years and has consistently turned heads with her stable of classics and originals, paired with her pronounced and technical work on the keys. (In 2013, Lamb was nominated for an R&B/Funk/Soul Cincinnati Entertainment Award and performed at that year’s ceremony, a mini-clip of which was used in her initial biographical segment on Idol.)
But a rise in local and national exposure brings a great deal of opportunities and challenges tied together. And it is those opportunities and challenges that my series of posts following Lamb’s experience will reflect upon. Lamb is an indie artist to the core; she writes and records with many different projects beyond her solo work. She plays all around town in the hopes of steadily increasing her visibility. But how does an artist used to local coverage deal with the sudden influx in national attention? What effect will American Idol have on local attendance or the reception at her shows? Will there be any long term changes or will this ultimately be a flash-in-the-pan experience for Lamb? These are the types of questions that will be explored as the show carries on.
Of course, to answer where Lamb will be going, it helps to know how she even became a part of American Idol. It all happened by chance.
“I went to Columbus for what they call the ‘Bus Tour.’ Basically you go down there and stand in front of executive producers of the show. From there, they just call you and tell you where to go next. You’re just playing the waiting game after that,” Lamb says.
Lamb and her friend’s spontaneous trip to Columbus led to the next stage of the journey — performing for Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. (one of Lamb’s musical idols).
There was a month in between both auditions, leaving plenty of time to think and speculate. After the audition in Kansas City and the announcement of her participation on the show, Lamb has been speaking to the media while still finding time for her day job and performing at night.
With “Hollywood Week,” featuring the singers who made it past the initial auditions, approaching, Lamb’s Amercan Idol adventure is just about to truly take off. Here at home, she’s already seen a change in her local reception.
“I’ve felt a lot of support from the people that I look up to. Frankly, I’m shocked at the support. I’m shocked that a lot of people see where I’m going with this,” Lamb says.
After her audition aired, Lamb played a show in West Chester, where she was greeted by an entirely different type of crowd than the Main Street district mainstays. Instead of young people buying her shots, she was met by a group of older women who brought her flowers.
The crowds aren’t just growing at her shows either; her online presence has grown as well. American Idol fans have flocked to Lamb’s Facebook, Instagram, email box and Reverbnation page. So many, in fact, that Lamb is having a hard time keeping up with all the attention.
“There’s been so much [growth] on social media, so many great emails. I’m trying to respond to every email and I have to take hours out of every day to do it and it’s amazing, I love it,” Lamb says.
In many ways, that excitement is indicative of Lamb and her Idol journey thus far. It’s been a whirlwind of activity that is guaranteed to grow as the show progresses. But she has taken it all in stride and is taking every opportunity the show has provided her. We’ll just have to tune in to see what other opportunities arise in the coming weeks.
The Hollywood Week episodes of American Idol air locally this Wednesday and Thursday on Fox 19.
Good morning all. Here’s what’s up in the news today:
City Manager Harry Black today announced that Thomas B. Corey will be the head of the city’s recently created Department of Economic Inclusion. The department is charged with increasing the availability of city contracts for women and minority owned businesses in the city. Corey is another former Baltimore official tapped by Black to lead a city department here. He was most recently The City of Baltimore Law Department’s Chief Solicitor. He will start Feb. 9.
• Average rents are going up in Greater Cincinnati, according to a survey commissioned by real estate company CBRE Cincinnati. Some of that is due to pricey new apartments in hot parts of town — the average rent on a newly-constructed apartment is over $1,000 a month in Cincinnati. But part of it is also swelling demand across all income brackets for apartments, according to the survey. You could blame pesky Millennials and our aversion to homeownership, but it seems like demand for rental units is going up across the board.
While we’re talking about rent, as we’ve reported more than a few times, Cincinnati’s affordable housing supply is stretched to the limit. There’s currently a 5,000-person waiting list to get a Section 8 voucher for one of the 11,000 units that accept them in the region. This Cincinnati Enquirer story questions whether that’s in part because Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority’s inspection standards have gotten too strict. The number of units that have failed such inspections has risen over the past couple years as CMHA started enforcing more stringent requirements on landlords. Some of the violations seem trivial — mismatched paint, hinges that need replaced — but others detailed in the story are serious, including windows that don’t open and mold problems. The story quotes one woman who actually had to move out of her home, and it was due to mold in the house. The Enquirer teased this story over the weekend with the provocative headline “Which County Agency is Leaving Residents Homeless?” But affordable housing advocates and neighborhood boosters have actually cheered the new standards. The story doesn’t mention a big piece of context: the abysmal conditions at some Section 8 rental units over the past few years. While reporting for this story published over the summer, CityBeat ran across truly shocking municipal code violations at Section 8 properties in Price Hill, for instance. These included sewage in rental unit basements, tenants without heat and water, doors that didn’t open and other major violations.
• Anti-toll groups in Northern Kentucky are fired up about statements Gov. John Kasich made last week regarding the Brent Spence Bridge. Kasich suggested that opponents of a plan to build a new bridge along one of America’s busiest shipping routes have their “heads in the sand.” That didn’t sit too well with the bipartisan group of lawmakers, businessmen and others who have come together to oppose the possibility of tolls for a new bridge. The group started a strongly-worded online petition that more than 2,000 supporters have signed so far. Kasich's plan, offered with Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, would create tolls to help fund the $2.8 billion project, but would also give a 50 percent discount to daily commuters and work to keep the price as low as possible. Opponents say tolls are unacceptable and that the states should reach out to the federal government for money to fund a more modest bridge update.
"On Wednesday, Gov. Kasich stood at a press conference – in a building that once housed companies he personally recruited away from Kentucky – and insulted Northern Kentucky and our elected leaders," it says. "If he cannot control himself, he should stay out of Kentucky."
• Ohio Gov. John Kasich has proposed funding in his recent budget that would create a new community health program aimed at reducing the state’s infant mortality rate, which is among the worst in the nation. The plan would fund community organizations to connect women in low-income areas with prenatal medical care available through Medicaid. Cincinnati's infant mortality rate is especially bad; the city has the second-highest rate of infant death in the nation.
• Ohio has announced it will delay all six executions it had scheduled in 2015 as it searches for new sources for execution drugs. The announcement comes after the state halted its two-drug execution method last month due to questions about its efficacy. Last year, an execution carried out with the two-drug method took almost half an hour, and the inmate involved was heard gasping for breath.
• The United Steelworkers Union yesterday launched one of the largest national labor strikes in recent memory. USW, which is seeking higher wages and better safety measures, called for nearly 4,000 employees who work in several oil refineries across the country to abstain from work until new labor contracts are signed with several major oil companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. Experts say it could drive up gas prices as refinery capacity is limited. It’s the largest walkout since 1980, when USW held a three-month strike. News reports indicate that workers in other refineries may also join in the walkout.
THE BLACK & BROWN COMEDY GET DOWN: The Black & Brown Comedy Get Down is an all-headliner tour of who’s who in today’s comic scene: Mike Epps, Cedric the Entertainer, George Lopez, Charlie Murphy, D.L. Hughley and Eddie Griffin. 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30. $49.75-$65.75. U.S. Bank Arena, 100 Broadway St., Downtown, usbankarena.com.
SIGNATURE SERIES BLUES & BREWS AT MEMORIAL HALL: Season two of Memorial Hall’s Signature Series Blues & Brews features a performance from internationally renowned Tennessee Blues band The Ori Naftaly Band, plus food from Eli's BBQ and The Phoenix and Rhinegeist beers. 6:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30. $47-$57. Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cincinnatimemorialhall.com.
BEEFSTEAK CLUB DINNER: Bockfest's Beefsteak Club Dinner's misleading name derives from an elite club that has formed annually since 1896, in which prominent Cincinnatians gather to pair beer and beef in the ambience of a brewery. This year’s event will be held on the third floor of the Hudepohl Brewery bottling building and feature roasted goat and pig (with sides and dessert) instead of steak. 6.30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31. $50 single dinner ticket. Hudepohl Brewery, E. McMicken Ave., Over-the-Rhine, bockfest.com.
CINCINNATI WORLD CINEMA OSCAR SHORTS PRESENTATION: Cincinnati World Cinema hosts two days of screenings to bring you the five short documentary films nominated for this year’s Academy Award in Documentary Short Subject, plus two additional Oscar short-list films. The nominees offer an astonishing degree of diversity in respect to genre, narrative and style, capturing the full spectrum of documentary filmmaking in ways that, in some years, is lacking in the main feature categories. 4 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31; 1 and 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 1. $10; $12 at the door. The Carnegie, 1028 Scott Blvd., Covington, Ky., cincyworldcinema.org.
SUPERJAM 2015: Though it’s (obviously) wintertime, organizers of SuperJam 2015 will create an outdoor music festival atmosphere indoors at Tori’s Station in Fairfield on Saturday. The all-day show features an eclectic array of some of the area’s best bands, including reigning Bluegrass Cincinnati Entertainment Award winners Rumpke Mountain Boys, plus Rising Smoke, Peridoni, Sassafraz, The Almighty Get Down (which just won the Best Live Act CEA), Tropidelic and Elementree Livity Project. 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31. $30. Tori’s Station, 74 Donald Drive, Fairfield, superjam2015.com.
THE HISTORY OF CINCINNATI MUSIC: The presentations on The History of Cincinnati Music that David (“Uncle Dave”) Lewis has been presenting at the Main Library over the last year or so have been so good — so enlightening and entertaining — that one wishes he could do it for much larger crowds at the Aronoff Center or Music Hall. But because his presentations have been on Wednesday evenings, many haven’t been able to attend. But now there’s a second chance. The Main Library’s music librarian, Steven Kemple, has arranged for Lewis to present reprises of his past lectures at 3 p.m. on the last Saturday of each month in the Reading Garden. It starts tomorrow with The Hymn Composers of Cincinnati: Philips, Bliss & Doane, and Lewis will have guest pianist Jeremy Stevenson with him. All lectures are free.
THE OTHER PLACE AT ENSEMBLE THEATRE: Sharr White’s troubling, engrossing and sometimes humorous drama The Other Place debuted on Broadway a year ago; Ensemble Theatre’s D. Lynn Meyers is staging its regional premiere, featuring veteran actress Regina Pugh as the enigmatic Juliana Smithton, a scientist renowned for her expertise in pharmaceuticals. She’s highly respected as a professional, but she’s becoming unhinged as a result of divorce and being estranged from her daughter. Through Feb. 15. $18-$44. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, 1127 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-3555, ensemblecincinnati.org.
The presentations on The History of Cincinnati Music that David (“Uncle Dave”) Lewis has been presenting at the Main Library over the last year or so have been so good — so enlightening and entertaining — that one wishes he could do it for much larger crowds at the Aronoff Center or Music Hall. Or as a professor at University of Cincinnati — he’d be great there. He combines his original research with recordings and archival film footage and still photographs (when available).
One of his presentations, about Homer Rodeheaver, whose Cincinnati-based publishing company and record label were pioneers of sacred music and who was also close to the famous 1920s preacher Billy Sunday, got a nod as Best Arts Lecture last year from CityBeat.
But because his presentations have been on Wednesday evenings, many haven’t been able to attend. But now there’s a second chance. The Main Library’s music librarian, Steven Kemple, has arranged for Lewis to present reprises of his past lectures at 3 p.m. on the last Saturday of each month in the Reading Garden.
It starts tomorrow with The Hymn Composers of Cincinnati: Philips, Bliss & Doane, and Lewis will have guest pianist Jeremy Stevenson with him. All lectures are free.
Looking ahead beyond tomorrow, here’s the 2015 schedule so far for Lewis’ Saturday encore presentations:
At the same time, Lewis is continuing with his new lectures on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. Here is the schedule for those to date:
Good morning! I’ll be brief in my news update this morning, since I’m also keeping an eye on today’s White House task force on 21st century policing taking place at the University of Cincinnati today and tomorrow. You can live stream the event here. Anyway, here are a few bits of news floating around today:
The director of Cincinnati’s emergency medical service is asking for more money to respond to the region’s ongoing heroin crisis, saying that the crisis is getting worse every month in the city. One of the big costs the city’s emergency responders are encountering is Narcan, a drug used to treat heroin overdoses. The drug is costly, and the number of overdoses keeps climbing. EMS District Chief Cedric Robinson says seven overdoses a day happen in Cincinnati and that the number is climbing. The city’s expenditures on Narcan have nearly tripled in the past year. In 2013, the city spent about $21,000 on the drug. In 2014, that jumped to $60,000.
• Will some parts of the Greater Cincinnati area fail new, more stringent federal air quality standards? It seems like a possibility. The region barely passed current air quality tests last year, and several counties, including Hamilton, Butler, Warren, Clermont and Campbell Counties, failed in 2013. Standards from the Environmental Protection Agency could get tougher by next fall, meaning that the region could be subject to new oversight from the agency. Hamilton County exceeded guidelines for ozone, one of the pollutants measured by the EPA, on only four days last year under the old standards. Under proposed new standards, it would have gone over the limit by more than 20. Environmental groups like the Sierra Club are cheering the new rules — they’ll be better for residents’ health, saving millions in healthcare costs. But businesses say the costs of compliance will be high. They’re lobbying against the new standards, of course.
• Now that he’s officially announced he’s running for U.S. Senate, Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld has started staffing up, tapping former Battleground Texas Democratic strategist Ramsey Reid as his campaign manager. Before his stint working to try and turn deeply Republican Texas purple, Reid was also a big part of President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. He’s also working with two political strategy firms: a firm led by Obama campaign veterans called 270 Strategies; and Devine Mulvey Longabaugh, which helped him win his council seat.
While Sittenfeld gears up for what may be a tough Democratic primary, his potential Republican opponent incumbent Sen. Rob Portman is also powering up his campaign. Portman has chosen high-profile Republican strategist Corry Bliss to manage his campaign. Bliss was last called in to turn around Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts’ last Senate campaign after he came under a strong primary challenge that threatened to unseat him.
• Gov. John Kasich has called for eliminating Ohio’s income tax for small businesses, a move that looks likely to bum out conservatives and progressives alike. The staunch conservatives in Ohio’s state House love the idea of cutting taxes, of course, but aren’t down with Kasich’s plan to, you know, actually pay for those tax cuts by increasing taxes on cigarettes and oil. They say that’s not a tax cut and that they want the state spending less money in general, even after the state’s budget has been slashed to the bone over the last few years. Progressives, on the other hand, say past income tax cuts have been deeply regressive. A 2013 cut paid for by boosting the state’s sales tax a quarter percent shifted the tax burden toward Ohio’s lowest earners, progressives say, and Kasich’s new proposal would further shift that burden. Under Kasich’s plan, almost all businesses run as sole proprietorships, or businesses owned by a single person who reports business profits as personal income, would not need to file state income tax. A business would be exempt from the income tax so long as its sales are under $2 million.
• Finally, if Bill Gates told you to be afraid of computers, would you listen? Gates revealed that he’s very worried about the potential threat artificial intelligence, or AI, could pose to humanity in coming decades. Gates revealed his concerns in response to a question he received during a Reddit "Ask me Anything" session. During his AMA, Gates also expressed optimism about the near future when it comes to computing. He envisions robots able to pick produce and do other mundane tasks flawlessly. It’s when the robots get smarter, he says, that we have to worry. His concern echoes that of other technology magnates like Tesla founder Elon Musk, who called AI “summoning the demon” at a symposium in October. I feel like I’m summoning the demon every time I open Microsoft Word, which is a nightmarishly vexing program, but that’s a whole other subject Gates should be addressing.
Umphrey’s McGee is one of the most popular bands in America on the Jam Band scene. Its sound can attract an eclectic audience with hints of Rock, Jazz and R&B and the well-rounded, phenomenal musicians in the lineup. The band has been touring nationally for over 15 years and is a staple on the summer festival scene. Umphrey’s have produced eight studio records; its most recent offering, Similar Skin, was released in the middle of last year.
CityBeat caught up with keyboard player Joel Cummins and discussed the changes over the years on the road and the fun and challenge of making every show a unique experience for the audience. The band plays the big room at the Taft Theater tonight at 8 p.m.; TAUK opens.
CityBeat: Your band is so famous for having ever-changing set lists. How do you determine what you are going to play each night?
Joel Cummins: We use a lot of different ways to figure out what to play. One of the main ones we use now is a website called allthings.umphreys.com, developed by a friend that has a complete tour history and everything we have played. It is a really interesting and interactive site that the fans can use to see what they haven’t seen us play before. We use it to look back and see what we have played in certain markets or make sure we do something different and don’t repeat the same thing. It is a really useful tool.
As far as making the set list, I will compile a history of whatever it is that we have played and whoever is feeling it that day will pick songs and make a set list for that night. It’s interesting — one of the things that makes it fun for the fans is that any combination of the six of us can write a set list, we try to mix it up throughout the tour so it is staying fresh for us and the fans every day. And now that we have about 180 original tunes, we have quite a few to choose from every day. So it is nice to be able to play for five or six days in a row and not have to repeat a song.
CB: I am just amazed that you can remember that many songs over that period. It is very impressive.
JC: You get to a point where you learn a song and as you are thinking about it and connecting the thoughts to the hands … after a while it becomes muscle memory. I think the only reason we are able to do this is because we made sure we play all these songs at a minimum once every couple months so you still remember it and we know how to play them. When we do different covers, one or two every show, we may only play those once or twice a year so that is something where we will run those entire songs the day of the shows and pick what we want to do to get it back. Thank God for muscle memory or we’d be in big trouble otherwise.
CB: You guys have been together for almost 20 years now. Have you experienced multi-generational fans yet?
JC: We have. It is a pretty cool thing. There are a lot of things I never expected to hear when we were talking to fans. Certainly one of those things is finding parents and their kids who are both fans, finding all these people that have said they make great friends at the shows and (travel) around the country to see each other, maybe somebody met their husband or their wife at a show. Those personal connections and stories that have happened with the band because of our music I think are one of the main things that keep me looking forward to the shows because I know that there are a lot of people out there that this means a lot to. It’s an engaging thing musically, but it has become a really cool social event bringing people together. Our fans, more than most bands, like to have a good time but they are there for the music. You go to our shows, you are going to meet some friendly, hopefully intelligent people. Our fans aren’t starting fights or getting crazy. It is cool to see the community develop as it has. It is something I never imagined that would happen.
CB: I (photograph) a lot of different genres of music and talk to a lot of different people. The Jam Band music scene seems to be a little more collaborative and supportive group with each other. You have collaborated with a ton of artists over the years. Do you have any favorite collaborations you have done? How do you go about choosing who you are going to work with next?
JC: I think some of that sense of community emanated from the festival scene. It is interesting because it is a shared thing with the bands as well as the fans. One of the things I do is Jam Cruise; I have done 11 of the 12 of them. I know all the artists like family. It’s cool to have these bonds develop and I think because of the style of music we play, because it is more collaborative and there are a lot of good musicians on the scene, it encourages the idea of collaboration.
If I had to name one as my favorite, we actually just got to play three concerts in New York with Joshua Redman, who is this really talented, really adventurous sax player. He has won Grammys and played with the best of the best, and the fact that he still wants to come back and play with us every once in a while is a really great challenge for us and really engaging to do. I think we have one of the most extreme varieties of styles in our music. As a result, we either play with people like Josh, who are in the Jazz scene, or someone like Mavis Staples, who is obviously a legendary R&B singer. We are friends with Huey Lewis, who is one of the most amazing guys out there in the music business, (and we’ve played more) current things like something Electronic with STS9 or something acoustic with Yonder Mountain String Band. I think we are lucky that we are in the time we are because bands used to be more closed off and competitive with other acts out there. It is a lot more fun when you can be friends with people and make music together.
CB: You lost your original drummer, Mike Mirro, last year.
JC: Yeah, inevitably things come up (about him) all the time. Most of the time it’s funny things that he said or jokes that have carried on. Most recently, we did a holiday show with some members of the band in Chicago. He actually has a charity now in his name, the Michael A. Mirro fund for Neuroscience Studies. We were able to give a pretty sizable chunk of money to that. It is good to have his presence pop up in daily conversations, but even more than that, the charitable aspect of trying to contribute to studies that help people who have the challenges like Mike had. We miss him dearly and he was a close personal friend, so even though he wasn’t with us in the band anymore (when he passed away), we had collaborated a bunch of times since he left the band. It was a really horrible, tragic loss.
CB: The festival lineups are being announced really early this year. Can you tell me what you look most forward to with the festival performances? What do you think is one of your greatest festival moments?
JC: I think the artist camaraderie is a really exciting thing with festivals. We have been lucky to play so many great festivals. One of our favorite annual ones we always do is Summer Camp in Illinois and that is something we co-headline with moe. and they always have other great headlining artists. Steve Miller Band is going to play this year. Widespread Panic is going to come back. There are a lot of great artist always at that one.
As far as career defining festivals for us, I’d have to go with Bonnaroo. We played the first one. Up to that point we had been playing at clubs in Cincinnati like Ripley’s, and maybe the Southgate House. We got asked to be a part of that first Bonnaroo. We were nervous because we got like a 5 p.m. Friday slot. We were wondering if anyone was even going to be there yet. We ended up playing in front of 10,000 people that day, a completely jam-packed tent. It was in 2002, and that was our first moment where maybe people knew who we were on a national scene. That is something I will always remember.
CB: You mentioned some bars you played in Cincinnati over the years. Do you have any favorite Cincinnati moments or memories?
JC: There are lots, to be honest. One of the early ones I’ll never forget. We played the last night at Ripley’s before it closed with our buddies Ray’s Music Exchange, a great Cincinnati band. That was kind of an emotional and cool night. That was the first night of us going out on a tour on the East Coast and Ray’s was headed out to the West Coast. I also remember probably just three or four years ago, one of my favorite things we did (was when) we played at Moonlite Gardens and Mad Dog, who is Ray’s former trumpet player, put together a horn section for us. We did a little back and forth competition, playing songs back and forth, and we had the horns up in the balcony and we were on stage and it was just one of those cool unique moments that hasn’t happened before. People are always trying to come up with fun things like that to do. You never know with Cincinnati because there are guys looking to get some kicks out once in a while and do something interesting and out of the box.
The Taft is one of our favorite rooms to play. I think we have only played there twice before. It is exciting to come into one of your favorite rooms and play for a sold-out crowd.
Late last year it was announced that Brad Schnittger (member of the great local band The Sundresses) was selected as one of two "Haile Fellows" for 2015 by People’s Liberty, which provides $100,000 grants to start-ups in an effort to “uncover opportunities to accelerate the positive transformation of Greater Cincinnati.”
The grant will allow Schnittger the opportunity to fully focus on his MusicLi (pronounced "musically") project, which is described as “an online music-business management dashboard for artists.” Artists who create MusicLi accounts will be able to use the service to digitally distribute and protect their music, and also enter it into the company’s licensing catalog, providing musicians with a nice alternative (or, if things go well, primary) revenue stream. MusicLi's “core principle” is described thusly: “There are wonderfully talented musicians in the Greater Cincinnati area, and if their music is digitally cataloged, published and made accessible for the purpose of licensing, this music can generate income for those musicians and make Cincinnati a better place to live.”
MusicLi recently launched a brief, 10-question survey to get some feedback from musicians to help guide the project’s direction. If you’d like to participate, click here. For more on People’s Liberty, this year’s grant’s recipients and complete details on their projects, click here.
On Aug. 11, 2014, the world lost one of its greatest entertainers of the last century — Robin Williams. I can remember where I was when I heard about his passing. I just got home from my day job as a security guard at King’s Island, logged onto Facebook and the first thing I saw was the headline reading “Robin Williams dies at 63.” To say that I was upset would be putting it lightly.
I think I can say with confidence that the whole world loved Williams because he touched us with his movies, television shows and stand-up specials. Of course anyone who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s will list off countless movies that left an impression on them, be it his game-changing performance in the Disney classic Aladdin (1992, directed by Ron Clements and John Musker) or his heartfelt and inspiring role in Dead Poets Society (1989, directed by Peter Weir). But the movie I’ve singled out this time was a go-to rental for me when I was a kid, when video stores were still a thing. That film is Steven Spielberg’s Hook (1991).
I’m sure many people are calling shenanigans on this being a “forgotten” film mainly due to Robin Williams in the lead role and Steven Spielberg being the director. I would be amongst those crying outrage as well, but when I began to think about it I realized most fans know of it only because of the nostalgia factor.
When it comes to listing the best of Spielberg or Williams, there are other films that would’ve been listed before this one. Even Spielberg himself had stated that the final product isn’t what he wanted and that he basically wants someone to remake it. But I can say that the product we have is a more than suitable film: the story of the workaholic lawyer Peter Banning (Williams) who ventures off to Neverland to rescue his children who have been captured by villainous Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman). In that quest he discovers why his children were kidnapped — Hook did it to draw Peter Pan back to Neverland and fight him, and it turns out that Bannings is Pan. The catch is that Peter has forgotten who he is. Throughout the film Peter goes on a spiritual journey to rediscover who he is and rescue his children with the help of his ever faithful Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) and the Lost Boys.
Williams is absolutely flawless in this role. He perfectly conveys both the uptight and work-centered lawyer and the childlike energy of the boy who refused to grow up. The lesson he learns in the end is something that is very logical and is something that should speak to anyone — while we all must grow up, we mustn’t lose our sense of adventure and wonder.
Peter’s journey to that conclusion is drawn in comparison to his archenemy Captain Hook. Ironically enough, it’s the adult who stays at a more immature stand point. In the original J.M. Barrie story, one could says that Peter is the hero not only because he rescues his friends from the villain but also because he lives in the moment and doesn’t oppose over anything, while Hook is all about revenge and will not rest until he has it.
At the beginning of the film Peter has his mind set on only one thing and that’s being a lawyer. That singular mindset leads Wendy (Maggie Smith) to say, “Peter, you’ve become a pirate.”
Peter’s son Jack (Charlie Korsmo) almost becomes like Hook as well when all he seems focused on is bitterness and hatred towards his father. Hook focuses on Jack’s anger and uses that as a weapon against the now aged Peter. But this ties in with another reason why Hook can be a considered a villain — he lets his anger control his life. Peter and Jack soon realize how petty and how unfulfilling holding a grudge is.
While I do see a couple problems in the film, mainly in the script department, I can’t deny the fact that I still find this film enjoyable and well made to this day. This was also a film that truly displayed why Williams was so beloved: He made us laugh, cry, and gave us that warm feeling that we all pine for. I guarantee that in years to come, this performance — among many others — will be fondly remembered.
Hey all! Here’s the news today.
A well-known former attorney has filed a federal lawsuit against the Kentucky Bar Association to get his license back after it was suspended. Eric Deters has served three suspensions over his career for making false statements in court, failing to return a fee to a client and other infractions. The latest suspension was handed down by the Kentucky Supreme Court in April. The court has an agreement with the high court in Ohio, keeping Deters from practicing here as well. Now Deters says he’s served his suspensions and wants to go back to practicing law, and says the Kentucky Supreme Court should reinstate him. Deters retired rather than seek reinstatement in Kentucky and Ohio, and indicated at the time he had no interest in practicing law again in either state. He’s acting as his own attorney, which has led to this pretty amazing complaint:
"Deters is no saint," he writes of himself in his complaint. "He is a sinner. But Deters is fit to practice law. Lawyers are not a choral of angels." Choir? Corral? Whatever. Deters is too tough for the haters. “What Deters incurred, lesser men would have have crumbled long ago," he says of the emotional and physical toll his suspension has caused. He blames an infection that nearly took his arm on the stress and strife his suspension has inflicted on him.
• You can never ban the devil’s weed too early or too often. At least, that’s the prevailing wisdom on Hamilton’s City Council, which banned sale of the drug in the city limits yesterday in a 5-1 vote. Though marijuana is already illegal in Ohio, council members wanted to have a municipal ordinance in place just in case a potential ballot initiative legalizing the measure passes in November and all hell breaks loose. ResponsibleOhio, the group filing the initiative, still needs to collect 300,000 signatures by July to even get the measure on the ballot, but better safe than sorry, Hamilton officials say.
“It's just being prepared for what happens if anything happens whether it be legislature or amendment, it's just being prepared for the next step," Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller said.
• The Kentucky House passed a bill yesterday allowing the state to participate in public-private partnerships, clearing another hurdle for a toll-based Brent Spence Bridge replacement. However, several key changes were made to the bill to make it more friendly to Kentucky residents and lawmakers who may oppose tolls. These include requiring any tolls levied as part of a public-private partnership to expire once debt on the project is paid off, requiring analysis of any public-private partnership to make sure it’s the best way to do a project and requiring a majority of lawmakers on project oversight commissions be from the county where the project is happening. Next, the bill goes to the Kentucky Senate, where it will face opposition from GOP senators who are staunchly opposed to tolls on the Brent Spence project.
• Here’s another tidbit from Gov. John Kasich’s State of the State address earlier this week. Kasich devoted part of his speech to education in Ohio, defending his public school funding scheme and also his support of the state’s embattled charter school system. Kasich defended putting more money into that system despite low performance by many charter schools and questions about some schools’ integrity. He agreed that the system should have more oversight in the wake of allegations of wrongdoing at some schools across the state, but also defended schools that have simply been low-performing. Here, he made a pretty stunning statement:
“Let’s not judge someone as not doing their job because they’ve inherited a group of students who are just struggling,” he said.
Here’s the thing: This is the same (I’d say very fair and correct) logic many have used to defend struggling public schools the charter system was meant to compete with and do better than. That is more or less the whole reason charter schools exist, according to their creators and supporters. Sooo… blame public schools for their inability to educate students who struggle under the weight of very real massive systemic problems that make it difficult for them to learn, but don’t blame charter schools that take money from those schools and make their jobs even more difficult for the same thing. Got it.
• Speaking of Kasich, he’s finally getting some national attention as he steps up his efforts to run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. Maybe it’s not always the attention he wants — this story calls him out on his efforts to create a Rondald Reagan-inspired balanced budget amendment to the U.S. constitution — but on the other hand, if you’re a Republican governor looking to run for president, perhaps a piece in liberal Mother Jones magazine about how lame your policy ideas are means you’ve finally arrived. So, uh, congrats on the milestone, governor!
• Let’s talk about a former governor for a minute, specifically Democrat Ted Strickland, who just jumped into the 2016 U.S. Senate race. As we’ve already discussed, Strickland’s announcement earlier this week caused a big stir, and now he’s already getting hit by GOPers and concerned editorial writers across the state. Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges mocked Strickland’s entrance into the race on Twitter today, saying, “same old @ohdems. Can’t get their act together” in response to an article about Strickland possibly having to face Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld in a primary. There are worries that a very contentious primary could sabotage Democrat’s chances at picking up incumbent Sen. Rob Portman’s seat, which is dearly needed if Democrats want to take back control of the Senate in 2016. On the other hand, having two strong candidates could be seen as an encouraging sign for the party, and the early level of mockery from Republicans shows they’re taking the threat from Strickland seriously. It’s already clear this isn’t last year’s governor’s race, where Kasich straight-up didn’t acknowledge Dem opponent Ed Fitzgerald during a debate because he didn’t have to.
• Finally, the Federal Communications Commission is voting on net neutrality today. This is a huge day for the Internet. If you don't know what's up, uh, start reading.
Update: the FCC voted 3-2 to require internet providers to operate as neutral gateways through which internet service flows. That ruling prohibits providers from making so-called "fastlanes" that would provide higher-speed connections for some companies and content. Also today, the FCC struck down state laws prohibiting cities from establishing their own internet services, allowing municipalities to create their own internet services in places that may only have one (or no) reliable internet service provider.
That’s it for me. You know the drill. Tweet at me. Email me (email@example.com). Messenger pigeon me. Whatever you gotta do to get those news tips and whatever else you want to talk about.
The Bunbury Music Festival will present its fourth annual three-day event on Cincinnati’s riverfront (Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove) June 5-7 this year (moved up from the usual July dates due to Reds/All Star Game activities). This morning, organizers of the festival — which was purchased by Columbus-based PromoWest Productions late last year — officially announced the lineup this morning.
Bunbury 2015 will feature headliners The Black Keys, Snoop Dogg and The Avett Brothers. The rest of the lineup includes Brand New, Tame Impala, The Decemberists, Old Crow Medicine Show, twenty one pilots, Walk the Moon, Matt and Kim, Bleachers, Royal Blood, Manchester Orchestra, Father John Misty, Atmosphere, Temples, Shakey Graves, Kacey Musgraves, The Devil Makes Three, Reverend Horton Heat, Lindsey Stirling, Catfish & The Bottlemen, Jamestown Revival, Mikky Ekko, The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Mini Mansion, The Front Bottoms, Jessica Hernandez, Secret Sisters, Lil Dicky, machineheart, Go Analog, Bummers and Indigo Wild.
So far, Cincinnati acts on the bill include Multimagic, Buggs Tha Rocka and RCA recording artists Walk the Moon, who have been touring relentlessly behind their sophomore major label release, Talking Is Hard (the band recently appeared on The Tonight Show; see video below). More artists are expected to be announced leading up to the festival.
One-day and three-day tickets for the 2015 Bunbury fest are available now. Click here for pricing and links.
Good morning readers. I hope you're all surviving the bleak, cold, dark days of February better than I am. I can't stop myself from browsing the "Getaways" section of Groupon — five night, all-inclusive stay in Punta Cana? Sign me up! I'll go anywhere the sun is shining and the heat is brimming.
As I wrote on Monday, season announcements from Cincinnati theaters are a sure sign that warmer days are ahead. The temperature cranked up a few more notches tonight when Cincinnati Shakespeare Company announced its 2015-2016 season. It’s no secret that CSC’s history and stock-in-trade are plays by William Shakespeare, of which they’ll offer four in the coming months. But their broadened scope includes definitive works of drama and stage adaptations of literary classics by great writers. Here’s what will be onstage at 719 Race St. from August 2015 through June 2016:
THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF AMERICA (ABRIDGED) by Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor. Cincy Shakes has had tons of fun with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). But Long, Martin and Tichenor have been generating laughs with numerous other subjects, and this is one of their best works. (It was staged at the Cincinnati Playhouse 10 years ago.) This one is a wild ride through our nation’s past featuring three actors, who probably did not pass high school history, who set off on a whirlwind historical tour that’s finds laughs in many of our nation’s greatest hits and misses. This production is a “season extra,” not included in subscription packages. July 24-Aug. 15, 2015.
CYRANO DE BERGERAC (based on Anthony Burgess’s translation of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 French play). Cincy Shakes will kick off the fall theater season with this classic romantic tale of the valiant and clever Cyrano de Bergerac, with long-time ensemble member Jeremy Dubin in the title role. Cyrano epitomized panache: In fact, that French word a feather or a plume was the hallmark of this dazzling swordsman and brilliant 16th-century poet. But he has a flaw, a gargantuan nose. He loves the beautiful and brilliant Roxane but is convinced his clownish appearance means he has no chance with her. Unaware of his feelings, Roxane tells him she loves Christian, a handsome but dull solider; Cyrano intercedes by writing letters and verses to her as if they were from Christian. The play has wit, swashbuckling adventure and profound romance. Sept. 1-Oct. 3, 2015.
Jeremy Dubin as Cyrano in Cyrano de
Bergerac. Photo: Mikki Schaffner.
DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller, written in 1949, won multiple Tony Awards as well as the Pulitzer Prize for drama. The story of the waning days of an aging salesman who still yearns to make it big is one of the great plays of the 20th century. Cincinnati stage veteran Bruce Cromer will play Willy Loman, the show’s memorable loser. This poignant tale of an average man trying to achieve the American Dream, surrounded by his strident sons and his loving wife is an exploration of failure and success that still resonates today. Oct. 16-Nov. 7, 2015.
AS YOU LIKE IT by William Shakespeare is the first of Shakespeare’s plays for the season and one of the Bard’s most popular, a predictable bestseller for Cincy Shakes. This time it will be the company’s offering around the holidays, featuring ensemble member Sara Clark playing the spirited Rosalind, banished to the Forest of Arden with only her cousin and a fool for company. She dresses as a man for protection and comedy ensues in the woods where love poems to her are posted on the trees. The lovelorn poet is handsome Orlando, whom she tests while hiding behind her boyish disguise. This show is great fun because it features numerous comic characters, delightful music and warm-hearted romance. Nov. 20-Dec. 12, 2015.
Sara Clark as Rosalind in As You Like It. Photo: Mikki Schaffner.
EVERY CHRISTMAS STORY EVER TOLD (AND THEN SOME!) by Michael Carlton, James Fitzgerald and John K Alvarez. Cincy Shakes finishes up As You Like It just in time to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its annual holiday hit, an irreverent look at umpteen BHCs — the show’s acronym for “Beloved Holiday Classics.” The evening starts out innocently enough as one character endeavors to perform a solemn reading of A Christmas Carol. But before long audiences are entangled in the stories of Frosty, Rudolph, Charlie Brown and George Bailey. Four of Cincy Shakes’ veteran actors (one as a highly inebriated Santa) send up everything from Dickens to Dr. Seuss. It’s another “season extra” (outside regular subscriptions) and definitely not for anyone who still believes in Santa. Dec. 16-27, 2015.
HENRY VI , PART I by William Shakespeare. The company has committed parts of several seasons to work its way through Shakespeare’s cycle of history plays. This year it’s the first of three parts that tell the story of Henry VI. Actors continue to reprise roles they’ve played for several seasons in two parts of Henry IV and Henry V. In this installment, the untimely death of Henry V puts his infant son on the throne, and the War of the Roses, pitting the houses of York and Lancaster against one another, is off and running. Jan. 22-Feb. 13, 2016.
JANE AUSTEN’S EMMA (adapted by Jon Jory). Cincy Shakes has struck gold with stage productions of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen’s novels of early 19th-century manners as adapted by Jon Jory, the longtime artistic director of Actors Theatre of Louisville. These shows appealed to audiences in part because the company has a corps of talented female actors (presently showcased in Little Women) who will find great opportunities in Austen’s tale about amateur matchmaker Emma Wodehouse who lives to meddle in others’ love lives. When she tries to set up her less than promising friend Harriet, the plan goes awry, and Emma must try to undo the damage. It’s another classic story of wit, whimsy and anxious romance. Feb. 26-March 26, 2016.
JULIUS CAESAR by William Shakespeare. Part one of a season-ending epic pairing of two of the Bard’s great plays begins with this tragedy about the brilliant general, a cunning politician and beloved leader of ancient Rome. Jealous Roman patriots decide his ambition is a threat to the Republic and assassinate him on the senate floor. The result is a civil war that tests friendships and loyalties; it also determines the fate of the Roman Empire. April 8-May 7, 2016.
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA by William Shakespeare. The second part of the company’s special event offers this rarely staged epic sequel to Julius Caesar. The civil war has ended and the empire has been divided. Marc Antony heads to Egypt to rule his corner of the globe, but his plans are sidetracked by Egypt’s Cleopatra. Their love affair pits Rome and Egypt against each other and changes the ancient world forever. May 13- June 4, 2016.
Subscriptions ($143-$233) are sold in flexible sets of seven that can be used one per production or in other combinations. Subscriptions and single tickets are now for sale via cincyshakes.com or by calling 513-381-2273, x1.
Shinji Turner-Yamamoto's 2012 Global Tree Project: Hanging Garden — two trees suspended by wire inside Mt. Adams' deconsecrated (and crumbling) Holy Cross Church — is now generally recognized as one of the high points of public art in Cincinnati in recent years.
In addition to proving inspirational for us in terms of what large-scale, site-specific art can be and what local artists can accomplish, it also has attracted ongoing international attention for him.
The latest development is his inclusion in an exhibition, About Trees, opening this fall at the Zentrum Paul Klee museum in Bern, Switzerland. For his site-specific work in the museum's main hall, he will work with a dying linden tree on the museum grounds.
The exhibit — part of a trilogy of related shows that continues into 2017 — is dedicated to the tree as a motif in international contemporary art. Turner-Yamamoto finds himself in some very impressive company. Others with work in the show include Paul Klee, Carlos Amorales, Louise Bourgeois, Paul McCarthy, Ana Mendieta and Shirin Neshat.
Meanwhile, a large-scale photograph of the Hanging Garden installation was commissioned by Caroline Kennedy, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, for the ambassadorial residence in Tokyo as part of the Art in Embassies Program.
Also, he will have a show at the Weston Gallery here next year.
Morning y’all. Let’s talk about the news real quick. I think winter is getting to me, because this update got pretty opinionated pretty quickly.
Can you think of anything useful, even vital, on which the county could spend $7.5 million? Maybe chipping in a bit more toward the Union Terminal renovation, or giving a bit to the effort to shape up Music Hall? Maybe addiction treatment or some other human services funding? More sheriff’s deputies on the streets? Or, you know, maybe they could put that cash toward a new crime lab and morgue, both of which are critically crowded and out of date. Or etc. I ask because $7.5 million is the recently-announced amount county taxpayers will pay for new Bengals scoreboards as part of some $12 million overall the county will cough up from its sales tax fund for stadium improvements. Is there any estimate on return on investment for the county on this? Will the new high-definition scoreboards create at least $7.5 million in sales taxes for the county somehow? In return for this outpouring of county largess tied to the 15-year-old albatross of a stadium deal, the Bengals made an exception for projects at The Banks to a provision in their lease that stipulates the height of buildings around the stadium. That’s nice of them. These are all things I will receive exactly zero benefit from in my lifetime.
• Anyway. Speaking of the county, it has settled with the families of three women whose corpses were abused by a former morgue employee from the 1970s to the 1990s. The county will pay $800,000 to the families to end a lawsuit centered around the behavior of Kenneth Douglass, who is believed to have abused more than 100 bodies in the years he worked for the morgue.
• This is pretty cool, I think. The University of Cincinnati will redevelop the old Sears building on Reading Road and Lincoln Avenue in Corryville into an innovation hub for UC-related startups. The university will spend about $16 million to turn the 130,000-square-foot structure, which has a distinct Art Deco vibe, into a business and tech incubator. The building was the first Sears store in the city when it was built in 1929. I’ve always really liked this building, and recently, with the fencing that has surrounded it, I’ve been afraid they would tear it down. UC bought the building in 1981 and it housed the university’s campus services until last year. When I was an Americorps member a few years ago, the UC-affiliated nonprofit I worked for had storage space in the building. I know its creepy, dimly-lit hallways well and I’m excited to see it restored.
• It’s official. Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland has entered the 2016 Senate race. Strickland, who will be 75 by that time, could face off against Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman, creating a high-profile battle between two of the biggest names in state politics. Portman is popular, with millions in the bank for his next campaign, but Strickland is a formidable opponent and perhaps Democrats’ best shot. However, at the moment, Strickland’s got some competition for the Democratic nomination in the form of Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld. Sittenfeld, 30, announced his intentions to run last month and has raised $500,000 for his campaign thus far. He’s a dynamic young candidate who has done a great deal in a short time and looks to still be on the rise. Some within the party believe he’ll bow out to the higher-profile and more experienced Strickland, but some of Sittenfeld’s own funders have indicated they’re backing him no matter who else is in the game. Will P.G. keep running, or will the state party convince him to sit this one out?
• Speaking of state politics, Gov. John Kasich gave his State of the State address last night. During the hour-and-a-quarter long speech, Kasich tacked rightward, mostly emphasizing his plan to cut income taxes as a way to encourage economic growth. The speech is an important moment for Kasich as he seeks a larger spotlight. Kasich’s been traveling and fundraising in connection with his bid for the Republican Party nomination for the 2016 presidential election. Kasich’s recent budget proposals, which he again touted in his speech, suggest he’s trying to balance the demands of the Republican party’s right wing — cut taxes to the bone, ease regulations on businesses — with a need to stay viable in a general election by appearing to be a compassionate conservative who cares about the plight of the poor, education funding and so forth. It makes sense that Kasich would emphasize the more conservative elements of his plan in his address last night — the yearly oratory is traditionally aimed at the state legislature, which is dominated by rightward-leaning Republicans. Those lawmakers don’t seem super-enthused by Kasich’s plans, however, balking at tax increases on cigarettes and oil drilling, for instance. One last note on Kasich’s big speech — he awarded the Governor’s Courage Award to Cincinnatian Lauren Hill, the Mt. Saint Joseph student and basketball player who is fighting an inoperable brain tumor.
• Finally, I generally like the New York Times. They often do fantastic work. But this piece today about downtown Cincinnati’s resurgence following the 2001 civil unrest is mystifying to me. First, there are about a million things that made Cincinnati sluggish and grim before and after the unrest, including many systemic issues that haunted and continue to haunt the city specifically and others endemic to a lot of other urban areas. There are about a million other things that have happened since the unrest that have made the city’s center, and many other downtowns, take off. Tying the two things together while saying that memories of the unrest are “fading” (probably not true) seems to miss a number of things. The article doesn’t mention the city’s pervasive poverty problem, the fact we’re at the bottom of the list in America for infant mortality, the fact that its police force (30 percent black) still doesn’t match the demographics of the city (which is 45 percent black). It barely glances at the issue of gentrification, a problem many say is accelerating in the urban core and a subject that has been hugely divisive over the past decade. Anyway. That’s my media criticism for the day.
Tweet at me (@nswartsell) or give me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) if I bummed you out hating on the Bengals, or if you feel the way I do about the team's blinging new big screens.
While Jess Lamb’s American Idol journey may be over, the show is still very much a part of her everyday life. Fans of the show know that the performers often leverage their appearances into work on other projects, such as backup singing or working with national acts in collaborations. It is a process that takes a great deal of time and effort but there is another aspect of being an Idol contestant (current and former) that many fans may not consider — namely, keeping up with the social media explosion that coincides with debuting on the show. It’s a deluge of activity that, initially, can’t be adequately prepared for and it’s one that Lamb experienced firsthand.
“At first, after my audition aired, my sites couldn’t keep up. My stuff was literally shut down,” Lamb explains.
As a local artist, Lamb was used to receiving a friend request on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram fairly often. She relied (and still does rely) on social media for the majority of her publicity regarding upcoming shows and releases. But after her premiere, the number and frequency ballooned in a very short period of time. Furthermore, friend requests from friends of friends or local fans morphed into a nationwide fan base that searched Lamb out on her social media outlets.
“It’s crazy that I can make a post about a song and get 90 likes and in two days see hundreds of streams,” Lamb says. “It’s actually reaching people who are friends of mine because they want to hear the music, not because they’re interested in the scene. They’re literally curious about what I’m doing — they want to hear more.”
But this influx of attention has heightened Lamb’s time on said social media, simply so she can keep up with all of the activity across her accounts, while still trying to maintain a public presence and keeping her fans up to date with her myriad projects. In fact, Lamb has had to cut back on the time she spends at her 9-5 job so she can answer fan requests and emails in between interviews, studio work and live performances.
It’s been a dramatic transition for Lamb who, before Idol, rarely used her social media for any personal or professional purpose. In fact, it was her fiancé who initially showed her the value of using social media to self-promote. Social media activity actually lines up with Lamb’s well established indie sensibilities. She takes pride in having a control over her public output, whether that be an Instagram photo or uploading a new song onto iTunes.
“I still own all the songs, I’m not going to get slapped on the wrist for releasing songs because I’m not releasing for a label —it’s still mine, it’s on me. If I fail, I’m the one filing bankruptcy. If I succeed, I get to hire more people,” Lamb says.
She also leverages her public output to help other artists that she works with as well. For example, many of her fans have seen clips of Lamb’s work with local Electronica act Black Signal or marveled at her unique jewelry and clothing, much of which comes from local boutique Lulu White. Lamb has been repeatedly asked about her collaborations and takes great pains to make sure that her partners get the recognition they deserve. In doing so, she is able to shine a light on not just projects that she is personally a part of, but also projects that she is a personal fan of, showing her fans another aspect of her personality and artistic output.
In many ways, keeping up with her social media has become another job for Lamb, requiring large amounts of time and thought to be put into its upkeep. But it’s a job she enjoys doing and one that she has no intention of passing off to anyone else.
“I would prefer to spend my time doing the social media stuff, I really do enjoy it. It helps me to come out of my shell when I’m sitting behind the computer,” Lamb says.
For her fans this is great news, because they can be assured that anything they see coming from Lamb online is actually coming from her and not a hired gun. It’s a genuine correspondence, which in today’s pop music world is a rarity.