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by Nick Swartsell 04.30.2015 89 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
marchers2

Rally in Solidarity with Baltimore Draws Hundreds

Activists gathered peacefully to protest racial inequities in justice system

More than 300 gathered outside the Hamilton County Courthouse today to protest racial disparities in the justice system and express solidarity with Baltimore. More than a week of unrest has gripped that city after 25-year-old Freddie Gray died in police custody there April 18. Gray sustained severe spinal injuries while riding in a police van, slipped into a coma and died from his injuries.

The Cincinnati rally was the latest of several that have taken place downtown in the last year after the  shooting death of unarmed teen Mike Brown by white officer Darren Wilson brought national attention to the issue of racially-charged police-involved deaths. 

After the rally, a crowd of more than 100 marched down Central Parkway, through Over-the-Rhine, and to the Cincinnati Police Department District 1 headquarters on Ezzard Charles Drive.  From there, a smaller group of about 40 took a zig-zagging route past City Hall and Fountain Square. That group had a couple tense standoffs with police at the eastern end of Fifth Street near a highway onramp and in front of the Horseshoe Casino. All told, the protest lasted about four hours, winding down about 10 pm.

The protests were peaceful and did not result in any arrests, police said, though one protester was briefly detained on Vine Street and issued a citation for jaywalking. 

Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell

Police speak to activists on Vine Street at an April 30 rally protesting inequities in the justice system
Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell

Activist group Black Lives Matter Cincinnati organized the rally. Among attendees were long-time activist Iris Roley, who was a key participant in forging Cincinnati’s collaborative agreement which arose from civil unrest here14 years ago. That unrest was sparked by the 2001 shooting death of unarmed black man Timothy Thomas, the 16th person of color shot by Cincinnati Police over the course of a few years. Also in attendance were State Senator Cecil Thomas, police officer and Over-the-Rhine transit activist Derek Bauman, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell and others active in the community.

Black Lives Matter Cincinnati activist Rashida Manuel speaks to the crowd at an April 30 rally
Nick Swartsell

Many attendees said they were concerned about wider disparities in the justice system beyond police actions.

“They are stealing our people off the streets. 2 million black people are in prison and no one is talking about it,” said rally attendee Alexander Shelton. Shelton, and many others, decried socioeconomic conditions that have led to higher rates of arrest, incarceration and wrongful conviction for people of color, including lack of educational and employment opportunities, the isolation of black urban neighborhoods and the stereotyping of black males as dangerous "thugs."

Shelton also called for an awareness of other struggles, including those in the LGBT and workers' rights communities. Several who took the bullhorn in front of the courthouse echoed that sentiment.

Many also came simply to honor the lives of people of color.

“We’re to remember,” said co-organizer Rashida Manuel. “We’re here to remember Freddie Gray. We’re here to remember Maya Hall, the black trans woman who was killed in Baltimore last month. We’re here to remember Mike Brown, we’re here to remember John Crawford, and so many others I can’t possibly name. We’re here to remember Timothy Thomas. We’re here because we’re tired.”

John Crawford III was shot two days before Brown in Beavercreek. His father, John Crawford Jr., attended the rally and spoke briefly to the crowd.
Nick Swartsell

This post has been corrected from an earlier version that misstated Freddie Gray's age.
 
 
by Danny Cross 04.30.2015 90 days ago
Posted In: Media at 12:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
enquirer

The Enquirer's OTR Shooting Coverage Was a Huge Mess

A few years ago, a friend and I were walking down the street in Over-the-Rhine from Neons to somewhere north on Main Street — maybe MOTR, maybe our friend’s place at 13th and Clay, might have been heading back to a car. I’m not really sure — it’s been three or four years now since people started coming back to the (mostly nighttime) amenities in the neighborhood. 

Just before we turned the corner from 12th onto Main, gunshots popped off behind us. We turned around and saw some dude running south on Sycamore. We bolted onto Main and jumped into a storefront doorway until things calmed down, called the police and then continued on our way. I followed up and found out that the man we saw running away neither died nor killed anyone.

It was a scene that has grown less common in recent years in the area, as the push of development has moved much of the drug dealing and related violence outward into other neighborhoods. In January WCPO reported that violent crime in OTR was down 74 percent since 2004, in part due to development and evolving policing tactics.

Such facts didn't deter The Enquirer from freaking the hell out yesterday when one of its reporters witnessed a shooting in front of a bunch of popular OTR restaurants. Reporter Emilie Eaton was on the same block when 30-year-old Gregory Douglas was shot around 9 a.m. near Vine and Mercer streets, fled a short distance then collapsed and died. Police today issued a warrant for the arrest of Darnell Higgins for the murder.

It's been a sad day for a lot of people: families and friends of the deceased and the accused; those who witnessed such violence up close.

It’s also a sad day to consider the state of local media, considering the response we've seen so far to The Enquirer's collection of coverage. It started with the reporter's first-person account of witnessing the shooting. Then came a news story questioning the neighborhood's safety, for some reason quoting the Hamilton County Republican chairman and a lone neighborhood resident saying he didn't feel safe these days. Soon afterward, a more formed version of the story was updated online — this time the headline tried to cleverly play on the word "dead" (“Gunfire in OTR brings morning to a dead stop”). The headline was later changed, “After fatal shooting, no easy answer in OTR," though the insensitive quip lives on in the story's URL.

The Enquirer’s decision to frame Douglas’ death as a question of whether or not OTR is safe for those of us unaccustomed to witnessing violence is generating the type of online debate (/clicks) the "newsroom of the future" was meant to induce. It has also been heavily criticized.

Here’s former Cincinnati mayor Charlie Luken on Facebook:

Here’s Derek Bauman, an OTR and mass transit advocate/suburban police officer, who wondered on Twitter why the first source in an early version of the “Is OTR safe yet” story quoted the county GOP chair before anyone else. Alex Triantafilou’s take? “There is more work to be done to make our city as safe as the suburbs."

Eaton's first-person story was published just hours after the shooting occurred. "A stray bullet could have easily missed the victim and hit me," she wrote. "The gunman could have come around the corner for me. I'm lucky to be writing this story right now."

The story elicited strong response from readers, but perhaps not the kind the Enquirer was picturing. About 20 wrote comments questioning the appropriateness of the piece, many along the lines of this:

As writers molded dispatches from the scene into The Enquirer’s larger collection of reporting on the incident, debate continued on social media. Enquirer writer John Faherty took to the comment section of Eaton's article to defend her.

Those of us in the media don’t enjoy criticizing each others' work, and we realize most people in the industry are dedicated and passionate. We respect colleagues at other media companies, especially when their dedication to the craft is evident.

Eaton clearly had a shitty morning. Her decision to immediately get back to doing her job is admirable.

Unfortunately, the collection of work to which she contributed was misguided, made worse by the classlessness with which Enquirer editors showed along the way. Publishing right-wing digs at inner-city neighborhoods has been a longstanding tradition at The Enquirer. Using a play on the word "dead" in a news story about a murder is the type of move that would get a college newspaper in trouble. It shouldn't be OK at any self-respecting daily. 

There's no way to tell which “content coach” might have shaped yesterday’s coverage. Any number of web editors could have written such an offensive headline — the newsroom of the future isn't set up to catch these things. Newsroom morale has been known to be low at Gannett papers across the country, and many of us actually feel bad for the many talented people struggling to produce quality work under such restrictive guidelines. 

Ultimately, reporting that might have culminated in an articulation of how opposite worlds intertwine in front of our eyes every day instead became a question of whether it's smart to eat and shop near poor people.

Later versions of the story noted that the lunch rush on Vine Street continued as usual just hours later, suggesting that maybe the question of whether or not Vine Street is safe had already been answered. 

"I'm not worried about it," said Mike Georgitan, a general manager at Pontiac BBQ on Vine Street. "It might affect lunch today – maybe," he shrugged. "But then it will pick back up."
A person is dead, and the cycle of poverty, crime, drugs and violence that gripped Over-the-Rhine long before a Japanese gastropub opened at 15th and Vine is still occurring all over this city. The Enquirer would be wise to demonstrate an understanding of these forces rather than following the path of least resistance to Internet debate.

It would be a lot more compelling than a description of how witnessing violence makes a typical white person feel.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.30.2015 90 days ago
at 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Council eliminates private police in city; 'Enquirer' changes OTR shooting headline; Kasich to order statewide standards on police use of force

Hey hey Cincy. So I’m a little groggy today after spending, oh, I don’t know, over three hours binge-watching the latest few episodes of Mad Men last night. This is unlike me — I don’t normally watch TV and shows about sad rich dudes aren’t usually my jam. But watching Don Draper, Pete Campbell (especially Pete Campbell, who looks like a smug Frisch’s Big Boy come to life) and co. get their comeuppance is great. Anyway, I’m going to try and muddle through the news in my drowsy state. Let me tell you about all the stuff that’s been happening.

The epic dramatic series that is Cincinnati City Council aired its latest episode yesterday, and there were some big developments. OK, that’s obnoxious, sorry. I’m going to stop now. Among the more exciting moves: Council passed a measure giving the city the go-ahead to apply for nearly $29 million in federal TIGER grant funds for the Wasson Way bike trail, an ask we first told you about in this story.

Council also passed a resolution that prohibits private police groups from operating with police powers in Cincinnati. The decision comes after a man in Tulsa, Oklahoma died earlier this month when he was shot by a 71-year-old private police officer while laying on the ground handcuffed. Use of private police in Cincinnati dates back to 1983 and is relatively small — two companies employing about 10 people that provide police services for events, apartment complexes and places like the Regional Chamber of Commerce. Members of council, including Councilman Christopher Smitherman, who introduced the legislation, stressed that the decision wasn’t a reflection the service of private police agencies and was made based on legal liability issues for the city.

Chief Lester Slone of Cincinnati Private Police said the decision was unfortunate and will probably put the agency out of business. Slone has served with the CPP, which employs seven private officers, for 32 years.

• Later in the evening yesterday, Mayor John Cranley and City Manager Harry Black announced the city has reached an agreement with public employees in regard to the city's pension obligations. The agreement is a big deal, city officials say, finally fully accounting for the city's huge $682 million pension obligation. Both the city and public employees gave up some things to get to an agreement. Retired public employees will no longer get a cost of living increase on their pension payments in their first three years, for instance. Pension obligations have been a major governing issue for many cities, hobbling the finances of struggling cities like Detroit for decades.

• A newly released police report says Kings Mills transgender teen Leelah Alcorn wrote a brief suicide note the fateful night she jumped in front of a semi-truck on I-71. The note, which was uncovered after her death, simply said “I’ve had enough.” The police report also reveals that Alcorn had recently researched suicide prevention organizations and had written an online message to a friend recounting past suicidal thoughts.

• The Cincinnati Enquirer changed a headline on a story about a shooting in Over-the-Rhine from one making a play on the word “dead” to something more neutral. The original headline, about the shooting death of a 30-year-old man on Vine Street, originally read “Gunfire in OTR brings spring morning to a dead stop.” The headline now reads “After fatal shooting, no easy answer in OTR.” The story asks whether the shooting will affect business and perceptions of safety in the neighborhood.

The change comes as the Enquirer’s coverage of the shooting raises controversy on social media. An emotional first-person account of the shooting by an Enquirer reporter drew a slew of comments questioning the appropriateness of such a story.

“Why would this tragic event become a story about the reporter?,” one commenter wrote on Facebook and the Enquirer’s site. “Even if she did experience it, let's keep the reporting on the facts of the news event. I was okay with her expressing the shock and fear, but when it shifts into her expressing pride for her job and patting herself on the back for doing it…well, we've quickly lost focus of the sad news event that just happened. Not the right time and place.”

• A huge union’s Ohio chapters have put their weight behind a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. United Food and Commercial Workers Union local chapters 75, 880 and 1059 have endorsed efforts by weed legalization group ResponsibleOhio, the union said in a statement yesterday. UFCW represents 18,000 workers in the Greater Cincinnati area. ResponsibleOhio looks to gain enough signatures to put legislation on the November ballot that would legalize the purchase of marijuana for people over the age of 21. More controversially, the group’s proposal would also create 10 grow sites around the state run by its investors. Those would be the only sites permitted to grow marijuana for commercial sale. After controversy around this part of the plan, the group amended its proposal to allow home growers to grow small amounts of marijuana for personal use. The group claims it has collected 250,000 of the more than 300,000 signatures it needs.

Here are some quick, statewide hits:

• Gov. John Kasich will order Ohio police departments be held to a statewide standard when it comes to their use of force. That standard will require officers to avoid deadly force except in situations where their lives are clearly at risk among other stipulations. Kasich will sign an executive order to that effect, he says, one step in implementing suggestions from a statewide community-police relations task force Kasich created in response to police-related deaths of Tamir Rice in Cleveland and John Crawford in Beavercreek. The announcement comes as unrest simmers in Baltimore, New York City and elsewhere around the country after the deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement. Kasich commented on several of these deaths, most notably Freddie Gray’s in Baltimore. “I don’t think you can break your own neck,” he said about the ongoing controversy around injuries Gray sustained in a police van after he was taken into custody. Gray’s spinal cord was nearly severed during a ride to a police station, and his windpipe was crushed. He lapsed into a coma and later died due to his injuries.

• A state law allowing the creation of open container districts where folks can drink right out in the open passed the Ohio legislature yesterday. That’s the biggest step necessary for Cincinnati and other cities to be able to create spots that mimic places like New Orleans’  Bourbon Street. Cincinnati hopes to create a district in time for the MLB All-Star Game in July.

That's all for me. Tweet at me. Email me.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.29.2015 91 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_04-22_gaymarriagens

Morning News and Stuff

Local rally to be held in solidarity with Baltimore; SCOTUS judges somewhat inscrutable on same-sex marriage; Sen. Bernie Sanders to run for Dem. presidential nomination

Good morning y’all. Here’s what’s happening today.

Activist group Cincinnati Black Lives Matter tomorrow will hold an event in solidarity with Freddie Gray, who died in Baltimore police custody April 19, and those protesting his death. The group says it will meet at 6 p.m. outside the Hamilton County Courthouse. More than 400 people have signed up on a Facebook event set up by the group.

“We will stand in solidarity with the women and men of Baltimore who have decided to protest the defacto execution of Freddie Gray,” the group says on the event page.

Law enforcement authorities say they’re aware of the planned event and will plan accordingly. Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil has said the department will work to allow peaceful, lawful demonstration, and Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell said the department is striving to work with peaceful demonstrators. 

Protests broke out in Baltimore after Gray died of an apparent spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. You can follow news from Baltimore at fellow alt-weekly the Baltimore City Paper's website. They're doing crazy good work.

Most of those protests have been peaceful, but a few have spilled over into violence, and the governor of Maryland had called in the National Guard and other law enforcement agencies. The Butler County Sheriff, for instance, has sent a six-person SWAT unit to Baltimore. The unrest in Baltimore is the continuation of a national debate over treatment of blacks at the hands of mostly-white police forces across the country sparked by the police shooting death of unarmed 19-year-old black man Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. last summer. Meanwhile, tensions in other cities, including Cleveland, continue to simmer.

• The former Deer Park country club bartender who is charged with making threats against U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s life pleaded not guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court. Michael Hoyt was arrested after sending an e-mail to Boehner’s wife saying that he could have slipped something into the Republican’s drink on any number of occasions, but didn’t. When authorities arrested him, he told them he was Jesus and that Boehner was “evil” and needed to be killed. Hoyt has a history of mental illness, which his defense attorney says explains his actions. The U.S. District Court recently found Hoyt mentally competent to stand trial.

• Are fancy-schmancy glass bottles and frosted beer mugs not your style? There’s a new beer festival coming to Cincinnati this summer that might be more your speed. Washington Park will host the Cincinnati CANival, which, as you might surmise from the name, will celebrate the city’s best beers sold in convenient, portable aluminum cylinders. The festival is being organized by the same folks who bring you the Cincinnati Winter and Summer Beerfests, and will feature more than 125 varieties of beer. Tickets go on sale Friday.

• The big news for Cincinnati and the rest of the country, of course, is yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court hearing on Obergefell v. Hodges, a combination of past cases from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee on the legality of states’ same-sex marriage bans. So … how did it all go? Will the court force Ohio to, you know, step into the 21st Century? Well, first, it’s a bit of fool’s errand to try and divine how the court will rule based on the questions they asked at the two-hour plus hearing. We won’t know for sure until the court actually rules on the case, which could happen as late as June. But, it’s interested to parse what was said in that hearing, and, as you might expect, the court’s nine justices were split along ideological lines in terms of their questions and apparent leanings. The court is currently pretty evenly weighted, with a couple justices who are reliably liberal in a way that almost assures they’ll side with same-sex marriage advocates and a couple who are so conservative they’ll almost certainly side against. Take Justice Antonin Scalia, for instance, who let loose with this pretty tasteless joke during the arguments. If anyone is a deciding vote, though, it’s Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate justice in most matters. Kennedy has written majority decisions in past court victories for same-sex marriage advocates, but he also struck a skeptical tone with his questions this time around.

 “This definition [of traditional marriage] has been with us for millennia,” Kennedy said during a question to attorneys for the plaintiffs. “And it’s very difficult for the court to say, ‘Oh, well, we know better.’ ”

But later, Kennedy also highlighted the importance of acknowledging the dignity of same-sex couples. Other justices also hemmed and hawed in their questioning, so, you know, it’s hard to divine what the court will do. There was a lot more to the arguments, and the justice’s questions. This great rundown in the Washington Post is worth a look-through if you’re curious to untangle all the legal wrangling. For a more light-hearted view of the proceedings, this Politico piece is pretty hilarious.

• In other national news, the Democratic primary for the 2016 presidential election is about to get more interesting. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont will announce Thursday that he’s planning on seeking the party’s nomination, according to the New York Times, challenging Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Sanders isn’t really part of the Democratic Party, though he does meet with them and vote with them most of the time in the Senate. He’s an avowed socialist and looks to shore up support from the Democratic Party’s left flank, perhaps capitalizing on demand for a more liberal alternative to Clinton.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.28.2015 92 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Cincy State Pres supports weed legalization; SCOTUS hears same-sex marriage cases; unrest in Baltimore

Good morning y’all. Here’s the news today. There are a ton of things happening, so I’m just going to give you a brief rundown of them all.

A controversial Ohio marijuana legalization effort has a new booster. Cincinnati State Technical and Community College President Dr. O’dell Owens announced yesterday that he supports a ballot initiative by ResponsibleOhio that would create 10 state-sanctioned marijuana grow sites owned by the group’s investors and legalize the purchase of marijuana for people over the age of 21. Could future Cincinnati State students study marijuana agriculture? Could be.

“ResponsibleOhio’s marijuana legalization amendment will allow thousands of Ohioans to own and operate their own businesses and will create over 10,000 new jobs for Ohioans,” said Owens in a statement. “It will encourage new training programs at our state’s community colleges, which already play a vital role in developing talent for emerging industries.”

ResponsibleOhio says that Owens is not an investor in the $20 million effort, which will need to gain 300,000 signatures by this summer to get the proposed law on the November ballot.

• Does Cincinnati need more police on the streets? That’s what the city’s police union says. Police Union President Kathy Harrell told Cincinnati City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee yesterday that the group would like to see 134 more officers join the 1,001 currently serving. Harrell says the department frequently experiences “Code Zeroes,” or situations in which no officer is immediately available to respond to a call. Harrell said some of the problem lies with the fact that nearly 300 officers are currently assigned to special units. Those units do good work, she said, but pull police away from general duties like responding to calls. City Manager Harry Black has said he will be adding money for more new recruits in next year’s budget. One question that comes up from this: If crime is at historic lows and Mayor John Cranley touts the fact that he’s added police, how many officers specifically do we need? Cincinnati’s police force is currently proportional to other comparable cities. Before Cranley’s boost, the city already had 3.3 officers per 1,000 people, which is the same as cities like Pittsburgh and higher than cities like Columbus.

• Cincinnati City Councilman and U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld hasn’t raised nearly as much money since former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland entered the race to challenge Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Their story asks if Strickland’s entrance into the race has slowed Sittenfeld’s campaign fundraising. Sittenfeld’s campaign says that’s not the case and that it has had some of its best fundraising days recently. The 30-year-old councilman was raising $10,000 a day starting in January, but after Strickland announced his candidacy that rate fell by half. Sittenfeld still bested Strickland in fundraising, netting more than $750,000 to Strickland’s $670,000 in the last fundraising reporting period. Despite that slim and perhaps receding  monetary edge, Sittenfeld is a big underdog in the race against Strickland, who has statewide name recognition and endorsements from Democratic bigwigs.

• One of the big arguments against shuttering poorly performing schools in Ohio, including controversial charter schools, is that doing so disrupts students’ education and cuts into their academic performance. But that’s not true, according to a study released today by think tank and charter school sponsors the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The institute, with the help of researchers from the Ohio State University and the University of Oklahoma, looked at 198 school closures across the state of Ohio from 2006 to 2012. What they found was that students at those schools actually performed far better when the moved on to other schools after their poorly performing charter and public schools shut down.

“The results of this study shatter popular myth that closing schools hurts kids academically,” said Fordham’s Ohio Research Director Aaron Churchill in a statement. “Students usually make a soft landing. After closure, children typically end up in higher-quality schools, and they make strong academic progress.”

• Today is the day. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in what is potentially the biggest same-sex marriage case in history. Their decision could decide whether states are allowed to ban same-sex marriages and whether they can refuse to recognize such marriage performed in other states. The case features several plaintiffs from Cincinnati, as well as others from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee. Amazingly, folks who want to witness the arguments started lining up as early as last Friday outside the Supreme Court. A ruling in favor of marriage equality seems likely, given that the Supreme Court has already struck down a federal same-sex marriage ban. Even opponents of such marriages are expecting a ruling in favor of marriage equality, both here in Cincinnati and nationally.

• The other big national story is the unrest in Baltimore over the past couple days in response to the police-related death of Freddie Gray. Tens of thousands of protesters have swarmed the streets of the city decrying the unarmed 28-year-old’s death while in police custody. Gray, a black man, was arrested two weeks ago by Baltimore police and dragged to a police van. At some point before he arrived at the police station, Gray suffered a severe spinal cord injury. He slipped into a coma and subsequently died. Unrest around his death has often been peaceful but at times has lapsed into violence — more than a dozen fires have been reported in the city, a number of police have been injured by rocks and other thrown items and some vandalism and looting have occurred. Fans at a Baltimore Orioles game Sunday night were kept in the stadium for a time as protests intensified around the stadium. Despite this, Orioles’ Chief Operating Officer John P. Angelos sided with the protesters who were peaceful, making some very cogent points during a Twitter argument with a sportscaster who criticized the protests. You can read his tweets here.

Angelos tied the unrest to the deep economic and racial divisions in Baltimore. The mostly black population where the riots broke out suffers from a 19-percent unemployment rate. The city’s black population suffers an infant mortality rate nine times that of its white population. These systemic conditions, folks like Angelos say, along with the unequal treatment of blacks in the justice system, are reasons why police killings of unarmed black men continue to elicit such anger in places like Baltimore, New York City, North Charleston, S.C., and elsewhere. As we explored in a feature last month on Cincinnati and police shootings, it will very likely take more than police reform to heal those wounds.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.27.2015 93 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ac2_7-30_shakespeare in washington park - photo provided by cincinnati shakespeare company copy

Morning News and Stuff

Are funding cuts at JFS putting kids in danger?; Washington Park to get huge porch; epic Gannett video fail

Hey all. Looks like a good number of folks out there have read our big feature on a group of refugees struggling and building community in the often-forgotten Millvale and North Fairmount area. If you haven’t gone and checked it out, you should. The folks we talked to for this story are brave, kind and all-around amazing. Their stories are at turns heartbreaking and inspiring — they’ve survived gunshot wounds, break-ins and many other hardships since arriving here looking for the American dream. That all sounds grim, but I promise there are some incredible bright spots as well. Please: Fead and pass along this story so more people are aware of their struggles and they can get help.

On to the news. A report from the Cincinnati Enquirer today asks if Hamilton County’s Department of Job and Family Services is critically underfunded. Three recent fatal cases of child abuse occurred under the department’s watch. JFS has suffered a 1- percent decrease in its budget over the past 10 years. That means fewer caseworkers with fewer resources to help kids in poverty and dangerous parenting situations. The department says the blame rests with the parents of the children who died this year, but JFS’ shrinking staff (they’ve lost 39 percent of their workers in the last decade) isn’t helping the agency do its job keeping kids safe. Declining federal dollars to the department, as well as the fact Ohio spends the least of any state on child welfare, have contributed to the declining funding for JFS.

• 3CDC’s website was hacked over the weekend by a group expressing solidarity with Islamic militant group ISIS. A number of sites controlled by 3CDC were hacked Saturday night to read “I am Muslim and I love jihad. I love isis.” The sites were taken down within a couple hours of the attack and stayed down most of Sunday. It’s not the first time a local organization’s website has been hacked to bear a similar message. Last month, websites for Montgomery Inn and Moerlein Lager House were also hacked by someone claiming to represent ISIS.

• As a decisive Supreme Court case over same-sex marriage involving Cincinnatians looms, how do local religious groups stand when it comes to the issue? It’s an important question with a fairly predictable answer. Most of your more conservative religious organizations around the Cincinnati area, including a number of Catholic and Baptist churches, are against it. Some Jewish synagogues support it, some don’t. The most interesting part is that a  few churches seem to be breaking with tradition and coming out for marriage equality. Anyway, read more about the divide among faith groups here.

• Porch-less Cincinnatians can rejoice, because Washington Park is about to get a $400,000 deck for you sit on and tan yourself this summer. Well, at least when it’s not being rented for private events (hmm lame). The deck will have food and beverage vendors and chairs that are much comfier than the benches all around the park. The Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation, which led a multi-million renovation of the park in 2011, will build the deck.

• In other park news, University of Cincinnati Urban Planning students have come up with a number of prospective visions for the future of Burnet Woods, my favorite place in Cincinnati (well, it’s in the top five at least). The results are pretty interesting. My favorite project, and one that the Business Courier spends a good deal of time on, is a proposed land bridge between the Woods and UC. I used to walk from Clifton to UC through the park every day, and I would have paid a significant toll to use that land bridge. Most of these projects are probably too expensive or wild to see the light of day in their current form, but hopefully the ideas will spark conversation about how to make the park better.

• As mentioned above, tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in what may be the biggest case in the history of the struggle for marriage equality. Here’s a great New York Times story about how lawyers on both sides of the argument are preparing for the showdown and what’s at stake. Marriage equality advocates hope for a big win: that is, a ruling that overturns states’ bans on gay marriages entirely, effectively making same-sex marriage legal across the country. But there is a possibility that SCOTUS will hand activists a more incremental victory, ruling that states like Ohio have to recognize gay marriages performed in other states but don’t have to make the practice legal themselves. Attorneys representing Ohio and other states, on the other hand, hope that the court upholds the decision of the Federal Sixth Circuit Court and rules that voters, not judges, should decide who is allowed to marry whom. That result seems unlikely, since a number of other circuit courts have decided otherwise and since SCOTUS overturned a federal gay marriage ban. Either way, it seems like the arguments, and the court’s expected June decision, will be historic.

 

• Oh boy. The above ad(?)/celebration of all things Gannett, which owns USA Today, the Cincinnati Enquirer and about 80 other daily papers across the country, ran last week during a company-wide "town hall" to announce structural changes. The video features Gannett execs lip-synching a song that admonishes folks that "everything is awesome when you're part of the team." That's a bit ironic considering Gannett made many of its employees re-apply for their jobs over the last number of months. I'm just going to stop talking and let you watch it. It's incredible.

• Finally, today is the funeral for Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man arrested by Baltimore police two weeks ago for running away from officers. Video shows Gray screaming as police dragged him to a van. Gray received a severe spinal cord injury while in the police van and subsequently died from that injury. His death has sparked large and ongoing protests in Baltimore, an echo of similar protests over police-related deaths in Ferguson, Mo., New York City and elsewhere around the country. Officials say they are investigating Gray’s death.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.23.2015 97 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Seelbach, Cranley debate OTR parking plan; CCV head Burress "not optimistic" about SCOTUS same-sex marriage case; GOP state lawmakers cut up Kasich budget

Hello Cincy. You know what time it is. Yep, news time.

It’s become a dependable, even comforting, routine. On Thursday mornings, I sit down and tell you all about the ways in which City Council bickered over the streetcar in its Wednesday meeting. The tradition continues.  A discussion yesterday about proposed Over-the-Rhine parking plans, which have been bandied back and forth for months, quickly devolved into a debate over the streetcar’s operating budget gap. Mayor John Cranley has been using that gap, which could be as high as $600,000 a year because of shortfalls in revenue and advertising receipts, as a reason council should pass his version of the OTR parking plan.

Cranley, who formerly proposed $300-a-year parking passes for residents in the neighborhood, now wants the passes to be valued at a market rate determined by the city manager. Meanwhile, Councilman Chris Seelbach has another idea: Cap the costs of the permits at $108. Seelbach’s plan calls for 450 permits, plus 50 non-metered, non-permitted flex spots for bartenders, waiters and the like who work in the neighborhood. Cranley’s plan calls for more flex spots. Either proposal would likely yield the highest-cost neighborhood parking permit in the country.

At issue is a philosophical debate: Cranley wants OTR residents to shoulder more of the cost of the streetcar. He also says the city has done enough to subsidize residents in OTR, citing tax abatements on many properties in the neighborhood and the fact that metered spots on the public streets around them would bring in more money than the permits do. Streetcar supporters like Seelbach and Councilwoman Yvette Simspon, however, say the streetcar is about economic development and that it will benefit the entire city, not just OTR residents. They say it isn’t fair to place its financial burden so much on those living in the neighborhood. Seelbach also points to residential parking permits in other neighborhoods, which are priced much more affordably than Cranley’s OTR plan.

• There was also a big hubbub about whether or not the streetcar will get in the way of major downtown events on Fifth Street like Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati. Mayor John Cranley yesterday railed against, as he said, “the idea that the city was secretly trying to discourage these events from maintaining their historic location,” and touted measures by city administration to make sure it doesn’t happen.

The backstory: In 2014, then-City Manager Scott Stiles released a memo stating that no special events could disrupt the streetcar’s operation. Depending on what you take “special events” to mean (i.e. is something that has been scheduled every year for at least a decade a special event?) that could mean the streetcar would take precedence over some beloved Cincinnati traditions. However, an agreement between streetcar operators SORTA and the city also signed later in 2014 allows streetcar operations to be disrupted for events up to four times a year. Sooo, yeah. Were those events ever actually in danger of being moved for the streetcar? Unclear.

• Citizens for Community Values President Phil Burress thinks defeat may be at hand, at least in the short term, when it comes to the looming Supreme Court case around same-sex marriage. Springdale-based right-wing CCV has pushed a number of anti-gay rights measures over the years, and Burress was instrumental in engineering Ohio’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. That law is part of the current SCOTUS case. Burress told the Cincinnati Enquirer he’s “not very optimistic” about Ohio’s ban withstanding the court challenge, mostly because he says some of the justices are biased and don’t respect state sovereignty. But Burress also promised that the issue “won’t go away” anytime soon. You can read our story about case, and the local folks who are making history as the plaintiffs, here.

• The Ohio House of Representatives last night passed a record-breaking two-year budget for the state that looks much different than the one Gov. John Kasich suggested. The proposed budget spends more than the state ever has, while taxing top-tier earners less than it has in the past three decades. The proposal would put Ohio’s top income tax rate below 5 percent for the first time since 1982 but forgoes Kasich’s more regressive plan to lower income taxes by 23 percent and use a sales tax hike to pay for the cuts. The $131.6 billion spending package, the largest in state history, also zeroes out much of Kasich’s proposed reform to education spending. Kasich is not exactly stoked by the budget.

“After the fiscal crisis subsides people think it's OK to slip back to old habits,” Kasich’s office said in a statement to press. “The governor will do everything possible to prevent that from happening."

The budget isn’t a done deal. Next it heads to the state Senate, which is cooking up its own budget anyway. 

• After those long-winded updates, here's a quickie or two: Is former Florida Governor Jeb Bush really the cuddly moderate he's been made out to be, and, if not, does that open up a window of opportunity for Ohio Gov. Kasich in the GOP 2016 presidential sweepstakes? Despite being a proponent of Common Core and having some less-than-hardline views on immigration, ol' Jeb does have some harder right tendencies as well that make him more complicated to consider. This article gives some good examples.

• Finally, as a person who recently transitioned to Microsoft Office 365 for all my workaholic email needs, I really appreciate this hilarious Washington Post article about the company's new ad campaign. I really do love working while I'm also sleeping face down in my bed.

That is all. Tweet me. Email me. Or don’t. Actually, just go outside and enjoy the sun. But bring your smart phone just in case.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.22.2015 98 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cannabis

Morning News and Stuff

Marijuana legalization intrigue; the cost of gun violence in Ohio; search for the Loch Ness Monster on the internet

Good morning! News time.

Here’s a juicy story involving alleged sabotage, political intrigue and weed. A marijuana legalization group called Ohio Rights Group filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission last week alleging that ResponsibleOhio, another legalization effort, sabotaged its campaign to get a pro-marijuana law on Ohio’s ballot. The filing says that ResponsibleOhio’s Ian James and David Bruno infiltrated ORG last year in order to gain information about the group’s efforts, which they later used to dissuade potential ORG donors. James and Bruno are now involved in ResponsibleOhio’s effort to get a measure on the November ballot legalizing marijuana but restricting commercial growth to 10 sites around the state. They’ll need 300,000 signatures from Ohioans by this summer to do so. The group claims they’ve already collected more than 160,000. ResponsibleOhio called ORG’s complaint “bogus.”

• Good news on Earth Day here: The Cincinnati Zoo has saved a mind-boggling one billion gallons of water and millions of dollars with conservation practices it has been using over the last decade. That’s a year’s worth of water for 10,000 households. The zoo says it saved all that water through some rather mundane fixes: sealing up leaky pools, installing more water-efficient faucets and other fixtures, beefing up water filtration systems and other steps. The impact was huge, cutting water usage by more than three quarters. The zoo went from using 220 million gallons of water in 2005 to just over 50 million in 2014.  Very neat.

• Will the streetcar run later into the night? Some pro-streetcar activists hope so. A group of a few dozen that attended Monday’s Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority public hearing on the streetcar voiced concerns about the transit project’s hours of operation, saying they’d like to see it run later into the evening. Currently, it’s slated to start running at 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, it would stop running at 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday it would run until midnight. But SORTA has said it could push that operating window up, having it start later in the morning and end later in the evening.

• The game is up for a planned challenge to Ohio’s Medicaid expansion, which Gov. John Kasich controversially pushed through the conservative-dominated state house in 2013. Kasich was at odds with much of the state’s GOP on the expansion, which accepted federal funds to increase eligibility for the federal government’s health care program as part of the Affordable Care Act. Federal funds for the expansion will begin to taper off in 2017 and the state will have to foot some of the bill. A plan by State Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, would have created a stipulation forbidding use of Ohio taxpayer funds to pay for the gap in the state budget state lawmakers are currently crafting. Butler, however, has since backed off of this idea and it looks as though the expansion, which gave 500,000 more Ohioans health coverage, is safe for now. That’s important for Kasich. The expansion is a key achievement in his time as governor and a talking point when it comes to the no-nonsense, get things done appeal he’s attempting to create as he mulls a presidential run.

• This investigative piece by left-leaning magazine Mother Jones is fascinating. According to 2012 gun crime data, gun violence in Ohio cost taxpayers more than $7.8 billion or $660 per capita per year. That’s chump change compared to some states like California, where it cost more than $25 billion a year. The state with the lowest per-capita cost was Hawaii at $234 a year; the state with the highest was Wyoming, which clocked in at $1,300 a year per capita. The per-capita data closely tracks with gun laws in states — places like Texas and Louisiana with permissive gun laws have much higher per-capita costs than tightly-regulated states. I can see some counter-arguments or questions about this, but it’s an interesting place to start a conversation about taxpayer costs and gun laws.

• Finally, the ultimate time-waster: Google has done its Google Maps thang in Scotland’s Loch Ness so you can search for the Loch Ness Monster.  I’ve been searching for the past two hours and I haven’t seen anything, but feel free to search the lake’s 263,162 million cubic feet of water yourself in search of the elusive prehistoric reptilian creature.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.21.2015 99 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_vlt2-nickswartsell

Morning News and Stuff

Panel debates charter schools; Kasich sets up presidential fundraising org; this train could get us to Chicago in 48 minutes

Hey all. News time.

Last night the League of Women Voters held a panel discussion in Clifton about Ohio’s charter schools, especially those in Cincinnati. The panel, titled “Charter Schools: Are They Accountable?," featured Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan, Aaron Churchill of charter school sponsoring organization the Thomas Fordham Institute, Steve Dyer of progressive think tank Innovation Ohio and Republican state Sen. Bill Seitz.

The answer to the titular question posed to the panel: No, charters aren’t being held accountable in Ohio, and that’s bad. Ronan said CPS loses about 8,000 students a year to charter schools in the city and that many of those schools aren’t prepared to educate them (see: the late VLT Academy, any number of other charters in the city). But some panelists argued that the oversight problems, which state lawmakers are working to fix with bills in the House and Senate, isn’t a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. They point to other charters that have succeeded and say that with reform and increased oversight, the privately run but publicly-funded schools will deliver on their promise. But there are probably going to have to be big changes: Charters in Ohio, most agree, are a big mess.

• At the same time a reasoned debate occurred on charter schools and the serious questions around educating Cincinnati’s next generation, elsewhere a highly paid grown man dropped numerous F-bombs about a game, reporters spilled much digital ink on the meaningless spectacle and we all clicked and clicked, spurring on the inane prattling of both. Well done, all of us.

• More changes to the Lytle Park area downtown are in the works, according to this Enquirer article. A few days ago, I linked you to a story in the Business Courier about the luxury hotel concept that will be moving into the Anna Louise Inn site, which has been occupied by a 104-year-old women’s shelter that is moving to Mount Auburn in June after a protracted legal battle. There’s way more happening in the neighborhood, including a $5 million-plus remake of Lytle Park, a $32 million ODOT rehab of the tunnel that carries I-71 underneath the park and other housing and commercial space in the area. Much of the change is being driven by Western & Southern, the insurance giant headquartered in the neighborhood, and its real estate arm Eagle Realty. I smell a new reality show called Extreme Corporate Makeover in the works here.

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s campaign registered a non-profit called A New Day for America with the IRS Monday, officially setting up a fundraising structure for the Republican’s nascent presidential bid. The group has some heavy hitters on its board, including former advertising executive and big-time GOP donor Philip Geier. A U.S. Senator from New Hampshire, a former state lawmaker and some Columbus businessmen round out the board of the group. It’s all a big sign that Kasich is more or less set on running for the Republican nomination, though he has yet to formally announce that intention. So far, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida have all officially announced their campaigns. Others, including frontrunners former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, are expected to announce their bids as well.

Right now, Kasich lags behind all of them, but a big primary win in one of the early states like New Hampshire could boost his profile. He’ll have to somehow convince GOP primary delegates that he’s moderate enough to win a general election but also conservative enough to uphold strong conservative values. He has competition on that front: Both Bush and Rubio exhibit some combination of staunch conservative policy positions and more moderate and practical beliefs, and both are already national players. But both also have vulnerabilities: Rubio is on the outs with much of the party after he attempted to launch an effort at comprehensive immigration reform. That’s sunk him with the party’s far-right faction. Bush, meanwhile, struggles with the general bad aftertaste the public remembers from Dubya’s presidency. Kasich’s chances may come down to the GOP’s estimation of how toxic the Bush name still is. We’ll see.

• I’m going to be brief with this because it’s maddening, but newsworthy: There could be an end in sight to the big fight going on in Washington over Loretta Lynch. No, not Appalachian songstress Loretta Lynn. I'm talking about the woman President Barack Obama has nominated to replace outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Lynch would be the first female African American A.G., and her nomination has been pending for five months as the Senate battles over voting on her. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has signaled he won’t put Lynch’s nomination vote through until another matter is settled: a Senate vote on a bill that would fight human trafficking. Sounds simple and like something everyone can get behind, right? Except that Republicans have tacked on an anti-abortion provision in that bill, and Democrats are refusing to pass it as it stands. But, according to this story, negotiations are underway to push the Lynch nomination to a vote after several high-profile Republicans have publicly criticized the hold up on her nomination. Phew. Everything is a mess. Everything sucks.

• Finally, let’s read this really quickly and dream: Japan’s maglev bullet train just set a new speed record of 375 miles an hour. At that speed, it would take you about 48 minutes to get to Chicago from Cincinnati. So if the United States was more forward-thinking in its transit policy, you could hop on the train after work, grab some deep-dish pizza and a can of Old Style (or if you like the taste of burning tires, a bottle of Malort), and be back before bedtime. (This is a slight exaggeration, of course, and it would be insanely complicated and expensive if not impossible to build such a train here, but still. We can dream, right?)

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.20.2015 100 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_6-25_pleasant-street-near-findlay

Morning News and Stuff

Developer eyes more condos for northern OTR; Mason Schools cancel Muslim event; Rand Paul's missed connections ad

Good morning all. Hope your weekend was rad. Let’s get down to business on this news thing.

The city of Cincinnati plans to ask the federal government for some cash for a network of bike trails branching off the proposed Wasson Way route between Avondale and Mount Lookout. The city is preparing to apply for Transit Investment Generating Economic Recover, or TIGER grants, that would help finance the network of commuter bike paths. The city applied with a narrower plan that only encompassed Wasson Way itself in 2014, but didn’t win one of the highly competitive grants. A lone bike trail doesn’t stand much of a chance in the application process, which favors transportation projects that provide a bigger impact over a wider area. The city hopes it can win some of the billions of dollars the federal government has awarded for such projects with its new plan, which will spread out through a number of Cincinnati neighborhoods. Mayor John Cranley has made bike trails a priority during his time as mayor, often over on-street bike lanes, which Cincinnati’s last city council preferred and which some bike advocates say are better for commuters.

• Let’s keep talking about transit projects for a second, shall we, because we never talk about transit and it’s an incredibly benign topic that no one could ever get upset over. (That is sarcasm, by the way.) Anyway, if you want to hear some, let us say, spirited civic debate, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority is hosting the first of two public hearings about Cincinnati’s streetcar operating procedures and fare structure tonight from 6-8 p.m. at the main branch of the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library. See you there! If you can’t make that one, there’s another one next Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Over-the-Rhine Community Recreation Center on Republic Street.

• Here’s the latest on the planned redevelopments around Findlay Market in northern Over-the-Rhine. Developer Model Group has announced it will forgo 35 of the apartments it originally planned for the area and will instead build nine condos. Seven of those have already sold. Model’s plans still include 23 apartment units. The shift signals a new turn for the northern part of OTR, which hasn’t seen as much condo development as the neighborhood’s southern portion. The move seems likely to fuel fears about gentrification in OTR as the neighborhood’s property values continue to skyrocket.

• Speaking of gentrification, it’s a serious topic, right? We’ve covered it a bunch here at CityBeat, and think it’s always worth discussion. However, this story is a bit mystifying. It seems to suggest that the spike in poverty in Covington is at least in part caused by development in Cincinnati neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine. Sounds fascinating. The only problem is, there’s absolutely no evidence presented that supports that. 

Here’s one of the many puzzling questions that comes from assuming poor from OTR are heading to Covington en masse: Poverty has been rising across the region, including in Cincinnati, which saw a 5.1 percent increase in its poverty rate since 2009. Covington saw about the same boost. What’s more, the increases have been happening since at least 2000, well before much of the city’s current development boom. If both cities’ poverty rates are rising at the same rate and have been since before development started in earnest, doesn’t it seem like Cincinnati isn’t just pumping all its poor and displaced into Covington, and that a larger systemic issue is at play?

A much more likely scenario: Specific factors like the heroin crisis (which is mentioned in the article) and a general widening of income inequality nationally (which is not mentioned) are creating a greater divide between the middle class and the poor. Meanwhile, poor folks displaced by high prices in center-city places like OTR are heading off to an array of areas, some in the more obscure and distant parts of the city limits, some outside of it, creating small, incremental ticks in those neighborhoods’ and municipalities’ poverty rates.

• Briefly, in case you didn’t hear about it: A group of Muslim students in Mason wanted to have a (voluntary) day where other, non-Muslim students were encouraged to wear hijabs (head scarves) as a way to foster a broader cultural understanding and build bridges between students. Instead, that event, called “the Covered Girl Challenge” has been cancelled after an outside group called Jihad Watch raised a huge fuss about it. The group seems to be claiming that the student group has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, a militant Islamic group. Jihad Watch says hijabs are oppressive to women and that Mason’s public schools shouldn’t be promoting them. The main trouble, according to the school, is that an invitation to the student-organized and led event was sent out in an official school email, something that comes across as promotion of a religion. That’s why the event was cancelled, school officials say. Jihad Watch has cheered the cancellation, because there’s clearly nothing scarier going on in America today than a young woman in a public school choosing of her own free will to wear a scarf on her head for a day in an attempt to understand the experiences of other young women at the same school.

• If a provision recently included by state lawmakers in Ohio’s budget passes, many of the state’s college professors will lose the ability to bargain collectively over salaries and benefits. The law would reclassify any professor who is involved in planning curriculum or other decisions as management, making them ineligible for band together and negotiate their terms of employment. As you might guess, a number of college faculty are up in arms over the sneak attack, which smacks very much of the state’s attempt several years ago to eliminate public employee collective bargaining rights with HB 5. That bill was defeated after statewide protests. 

• Gov. John Kasich was hanging out with powerful Republican groups in New Hampshire last week, where he made his strongest signals yet that he's running for president. He hasn't announced yet, but he's told big GOPers to "think of me" as they mull their choices.

• Finally, got a hot tip about Democratic presidential possibility Hillary Clinton? U.S. Sen. And Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul wants to know. You can send tips about fundraising activities at the Clinton Foundation, Bill and Hillary’s charitable organization, from a form on Paul’s website. The outspoken libertarian-leaning Republican has been hinting for a while now that some big bombshell about the Clinton Foundation is about to fall and hobble Hillary’s campaign. Those bombshells are supposedly contained in a new book due out next month by author Peter Schweizer. The New York Times, Washington Post and Fox News all have exclusives ready based on information in the book, apparently, but Paul’s casting about for tips on the Internet does not inspire great confidence that he’s sitting on big info. A suggestion: Have you tried the Craigslist missed connections section? I can see the listing now:

“You were at a fundraiser for my presidential campaign. You whispered something vague but titillating in my ear about foreign donors and Hillary. Please contact me via my website, where you can also buy an awesome T-shirt.”

 
 

 

 

by Danny Cross and Nick Swartsell 07.29.2015 8 hours ago
at 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
dubose

Grand Jury Indicts Officer in Death of Samuel Dubose

Hamilton County prosecutor: Tensing purposely killed Dubose

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters today announced that a grand jury has indicted University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing for the killing of Samuel Dubose during a traffic stop on July 19. Tensing will be arrested and charged with murder. If convicted, he will face life in prison.

Deters had harsh words for Tensing, calling his shooting of Dubose “the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make” and stating that Tensing should never have been a cop in the first place. 


Deters repeatedly told members of the media that he could not speak candidly about his feelings, at one point calling the traffic stop itself “chicken crap.” Deters said he was shocked by the video and sad for the community.

“I couldn't believe it,” Deters said of the body cam footage. “I just could not believe it.”


WARNING: GRAPHIC FOOTAGE


Officials played a portion of Tensing’s body cam video at the press conference. The entire video will be made available, Deters said.

Deters’ description of the encounter sharply contradicts Tensing’s story. 

"This does not happen in the United States," Deters said. "People don't get shot for a traffic stop. ... He was simply rolling away."

During the press conference, Deters referenced a latter portion of the video showing officers after Tensing shot Dubose discussing what had happened. Deters expressed skepticism toward some of Tensing’s comments after the incident, including his arm being caught in the car. Police will investigate collusion with other officers, Deters said.

“He said he got his arm stuck in the steering wheel,” Deters said. “You just have to watch it.”

“I think he was making an excuse for a purposeful killing of another person,” Deters added. “That’s what I think.”

Tensing’s initial explanation was that Dubose started to drive off during a traffic stop in Mount Auburn over a missing license plate, nearly running him over. Tensing says he was then forced to shoot Dubose in the head because he was being dragged by the car and his life was in danger. Tensing said he suffered minor injuries when he fell to the ground as Dubose’s car rolled away.

Dubose's family said they were thankful for the grand jury's decision.

"I thank God that everything is being uncovered," said Audrey Dubose, Samuel's mother. "This one did not go unsolved and hidden."

Audrey Dubose pledged to continue fighting against police injustice, calling for body cameras for all police departments. She said many others have died at the hands of police unnecessarily.

"My son was killed by cop unjustly," she said. "I gotta know many more are killed unjustly. I'm going to be on the battlefield for them."

City leaders delayed a scheduled a news conference at 2 p.m. in order to let the Dubose family speak after Deters. Officials praised the grand jury's decision, saying that the city simply wanted truth about the incident to come out. Mayor John Cranley called for demonstrators to remain peaceful if they took to the streets. City Manager Harry Black said the Cincinnati Police Department will soon get body cameras similar to the one that played a pivotal role in the Dubose shooting investigation. University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono, meanwhile, revealed that Tensing had been fired from the University of Cincinnati Police Department. He also responded to an earlier suggestion from Deters, who said the school should disband its police force and let CPD patrol campus. Ono said the school has not yet considered that option.

More than 500 people including Mayor John Cranley, City Manager Harry Black and State Sen. Cecil Thomas attended Dubose’s funeral services at Church of the Living God in Avondale yesterday, where the father, musician and entrepreneur was laid to rest. His mother and other family members remembered him as a kind and loving man who nevertheless had a deep, sometimes complicated independent streak. Dubose was buried at Landmark Memorial Gardens in Evendale.

Until today, Deters had declined to release video footage, a decision that caused protests. Deters said the protests did not affect his decision to finally release the footage. He lauded the protesters for being peaceful and praised the Dubose family.

City Manager Black had been briefed on the video and called it “a bad situation,” saying, “someone has died who did not necessarily have to die.” Mayor Cranley met with the Dubose family this morning.

Tensing, 25, hasn’t had major disciplinary actions on his record and his superiors have spoken highly of him. He started at UC last year after serving with the Green Hills Police Department, where he started as a part-time officer in 2011. Tensing has retained Stew Matthews, a Cincinnati attorney, for his defense.

During the press conference, Deters called for the disbanding of the University of Cincinnati police department. He said he has spoken with UC’s president and Cincinnati police about disbanding the unit, replacing it with CPD.

“I just don’t think a university should be in a policing business,” Deters said. “I just don’t. I think CPD should be doing the entire campus.”

Black Lives Matter has scheduled a rally for 6:30 p.m. at the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.29.2015 11 hours ago
Posted In: News at 09:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_07-22_audrey2

Morning News and Stuff

Deters to release Dubose shooting footage today; hotel on Purple People Bridge stalled; Boehner in trouble with House conservatives again

Good morning all. Here’s the news today. The biggest story is the possible release of a grand jury decision and/or body camera footage in the case of Samuel Dubose.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has scheduled a 1 p.m. news conference about the death of Dubose at the hands of University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing July 19. Deters has confirmed he will release the body camera footage of the shooting today, and may announce the results of a grand jury probe into that shooting. The University of Cincinnati will shut down at 11 a.m. in preparation for Deter’s announcement, suggesting something major will be divulged at the event. City leaders have scheduled a response news conference at 2 p.m.

""The University of Cincinnati will cancel all classes on the Uptown and Medical campuses at 11:00 a.m. today including all classes in session at that time," a UC e-mail to employees and students said. "Offices on these campuses also will close at 11:00 a.m. This decision is made with an abundance of caution in anticipation of today’s announcement of the Hamilton County grand jury’s decision regarding the July 19 officer-involved shooting of Samuel Dubose and the release of the officer’s body camera video. We realize this is a challenging time for our university community."

Questions continue over Dubose’s death. Tensing’s story is that Dubose started to drive off during a traffic stop in Mount Auburn over a missing license plate, nearly running him over. Tensing says he was then forced to shoot Dubose in the head because he was being dragged by the car and his life was in danger. Tensing suffered minor injuries when he fell to the ground as Dubose’s car rolled away. But Dubose’s family and some activists have expressed skepticism about that chain of events.

Yesterday was the funeral for Dubose. More than 500 people including Mayor John Cranley, City Manager Harry Black and State Sen Cecil Thomas attended the services at Church of the Living God in Avondale where the father, musician and entrepreneur was laid to rest. His mother Audrey Dubose and other family members remembered him as a kind and loving man who nevertheless had a deep, sometimes complicated independent streak. Some friends knew him as the man who started the Ruthless Riders, a black motorcycle club, and as a talented rapper and producer. The service and its immediate aftermath were at times somber, but devoid of anger. Family, friends and faith leaders called for answers to Dubose’s death, but also stressed they did not want to see violence or unrest in the wake of his killing. Dubose was buried at Landmark Memorial Gardens in Evendale.

Thus far, the prosecutor has declined to release video footage for the time being as his office presents evidence to a grand jury, causing protests. The grand jury could decide to indict Tensing on charges ranging from aggravated murder, which carries a potential death sentence, to negligent homicide, a misdemeanor. City Manager Harry Black has been briefed on that video and has called it “a bad situation,” saying that, “someone has been died who did not necessarily have to die.” Tensing, 25, hasn’t had major disciplinary actions on his record and his superiors have spoken highly of him. He started at UC last year after serving with the Green Hills Police Department, where he started as a part-time officer in 2011. Tensing has retained Stew Matthews, a Cincinnati attorney, for his defense in the event he is indicted.

Other news, real quick-like:

A $100 million hotel project on the Purple People Bridge between Newport and Cincinnati is likely off the table indefinitely, according to developers. In 2010, DW Real Estate made plans to build a 90-room hotel at the center of the 2,600 foot bridge. But disagreements about parking have kept the plan from moving forward. Developers say without the parking, the hotel is a no-go.

• Some Ohio state legislators are calling for the resignation of Ohio Schools Superintendent Richard Ross following the revelation that some Ohio charter schools aren't being held to proper state standards. You can read more about the controversy here. It's been a tough month for charter schools. Earlier this summer, it was revealed that a high-ranking Ohio Department of Education official responsible for holding charter sponsor organizations accountable had omitted a number of low grades for online charter schools because it would mask better performance from other schools. That official has since resigned.

• Looks like House Speaker John Boehner is once again in trouble with the more raucous members of his party. U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina has filed a motion in the House to remove Boehner from his powerful perch as speaker. It's not the first time a cadre of conservative GOPers has come at our spray-tanned hometown hero with torches and pitchforks, and it's unlikely the move will gain enough support to  shake Boehner from his post. But it's a reminder that his control over the fractious House is tenuous and best, and that deep friction continues between the staunchly conservative tea party wing of the GOP and more traditional Republicans.


 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.28.2015 34 hours ago
Posted In: News at 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
tuckers1

Morning News and Stuff

Dubose family hires Zimmerman attorney; Tucker's closed by fire; U.S. Bank to get big renovation

Hey Cincinnati! I'm Natalie, a new staff writer here at CityBeat covering news. You may have already seen a byline or two of mine. Expect to see more! I'm giving Nick a little break today and taking on my first morning round-up of headlines. Here's what's happening.

The family of Samuel Dubose, the man who was shot a week ago by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, has hired the former attorney of controversial neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who shot unarmed teen Trayvon Martin in 2012. Attorney Mark O'Mara has already begun to question officials on the release ofTensing's body camera footage. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has declined to release the footage at this time, saying it could jeopardize a fair trial for the officer. O'Mara says he plans to join the lawsuit filed by the Associated Press, the Enquirer and four local television stations, but could file his own suit as well. Dubose was shot by Tensing on July 19 in Mount Auburn when he was stopped for missing the front license place on his car.

• Cincinnati has a new Assistant Police Chief. Police Captain Eliot Isaac was sworn in to his position Monday afternoon. Isaac has 26 years experience with the Cincinnati Police Department and was chosen unanimously. He was promoted to captain in 2004 and his other previous positions include District 4 commander, criminal investigation commander, internal investigations commander and night chief. He's replacing Paul Humpheries, who left the department in June to head security at Coca Cola Beverages in Florida after nearly 30 years on the force.

• You’ll have to get your home fries and bacon elsewhere for a bit. Over-the-Rhine greasy spoon and 70-year-old community institution Tucker’s was damaged July 27 by a fire and is currently closed. The fire did extensive damage to the Vine Street fixture’s kitchen, and owner Joe Tucker says it’s unclear when it will reopen. Tucker’s parents opened the restaurant in 1946.

• After missing out on a huge political convention, Cincy's U.S. Bank Arena will be getting a huge renovation that could make the city more competitive in vying  for major events. Arena owners Nederlander Entertainment and AEG Facilities announced today that the renovation will increase the stadium's capacity by 500 to 18,500. It will also have up to 1,750 club seats — a vast improvement over current numbers — and add a new suite level closer to the stage. The lack of available suites was one of the major reasons that Cincinnati its bid lost the Republican National Convention to Cleveland. In addition to its increased capacity, the arena will also sport a new glass facade and other improvements. Cost for the renovations were not released by the owners.

• Covington is once again struggling to find ways to pay for its police and fire departments. Over the last 10 years, the city has reduced staffing for police and fire, and now some residents are worried there aren't enough to properly look after the city, which has a relatively small population for some of the challenges it struggles with including poverty and higher crime rates. The city's woes are long-running in this regard: Covington has been struggling to fully pay for basic services like law enforcement since the 1970s for a variety of social and economic reasons. Some there say it's time to raise taxes to make sure there are enough cops on the beat, while others have pushed back against proposed tax increases.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.27.2015 59 hours ago
Posted In: News at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Protests continue over Dubose shooting; Ohio marijuana legalization drama; Kasich goes PoMo

Hey all! Hope your weekend was grand. Here’s the news today.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are a number of events going on downtown to commemorate the historic federal law, which works to guarantee equal rights for those with disabilities. A rally and presentations about the history and impact of the law kicked off at City Hall at 9 a.m. this morning, followed by a march to Fountain Square, where ADA-related events will take place through this afternoon. We’ll have more on the events and the ADA’s legacy later.

• On the one-week anniversary of the University of Cincinnati Police shooting death of Samuel Dubose in Mount Auburn, protesters gathered yesterday outside UC’s Public Safety office to demand answers about the incident. More than 100 people showed up for the protest, many of whom later marched down Vine Street to the site of Dubose’s death half a mile away. Driving rain didn’t keep family members, friends and activists from gathering and remembering Dubose, calling for the release of tapes showing the incident, and the removal of UC Police Officer Ray Tensing, who shot Dubose. Officials say Dubose was stopped due to a missing front license plate on his car. His license was suspended at the time, and Tensing ordered Dubose to leave his vehicle. Dubose refused, according to police, and a struggle ensued. Police say Dubose started his car and began driving away, dragging Tensing with him. Tensing then shot Dubose in the head and fell away from the car. Family, friends and police-accountability activists, however, question this version of events. They say footage from Tensing’s body camera and possible security footage from a nearby building could tell a different story. At least some of that footage is now in the hands of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, who has said he will not release it at this time. City Manager Harry Black made comments today about the shooting, saying he's been briefed about the video and that "someone has died who did not necessarily have to die." Black refused to elaborate further on the situation.

• The head of Ohio’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, one of the nation’s oldest and highest-profile marijuana legalization groups, was ousted in June, and he says his removal is due to his support of another legalization effort. Rob Ryan, who lives in Blue Ash, was removed as president of Ohio NORML after he came out in support of ResponsibleOhio, a ballot initiative that is seeking to legalize marijuana use for anyone above 21 and establish 10 legal marijuana grow sites around the state owned by the group’s investors. Now Ryan says he was dismissed due to his support for that group. But NORML officials say his removal had more to do with his personality, charging that he has been rude and even abusive to NORML members who don’t support ResponsibleOhio. The ballot initiative to create a constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana has deep Cincinnati ties and has been very controversial due to its limitations on who can grow the drug commercially. The group is now also in a frantic, last-minute scramble to get more than 30,000 valid signatures from voters across the state after a past petition drive fell short of the 300,000 signatures required to land a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. The group has until next month to collect those signatures.

• Northside is getting a new spot for cold, sweet treats. Dojo Gelato, a Findlay Market fixture for years, will move to its first stand-alone store at the old J.F. Dairy Corner on Blue Rock Avenue right around the time it starts getting warm again next year. Owner Michael Cristner lives in the neighborhood, and has been looking to set up permanent shop there for some time. I do really love Dojo’s affogato with the Mexican vanilla and Dutch chocolate, but I’m also a big adherent of Putz’s Creamy Whip down the street. Blue ice cream with a cherry dip, y’all. I guess I’ll just have to double my ice cream/gelato intake.

• Gov. John Kasich, it seems, can be downright postmodern in his view on today’s big policy questions as he tries to convince Republicans he’s their man to run for president. At recent campaign stops, Kasich has shrugged off the tyranny of the solid, sure answer for an acknowledgement that the world is absolutely insane, knowledge is illusory and none of us can really know anything. OK, so that’s a pretty big exaggeration on my part. But the guv has been uttering the phrase “I don’t know” a lot on the trail in response to policy questions. Does it show he’s honest? Still formulating his positions carefully and with intellectual rigor? Or is he just kind of a wimp who won’t commit to an answer? Time will tell. In the meantime, John, can I suggest some real page-turners by this guy Baudrillard? There is more and more information in the world, Mr. Kasich, and less and less meaning, and we both know it.

• Speaking of the complete shattering of the fallacy that the world is a rational place, new polls continue to show real-estate magnate and hairpiece-addiction spokesman Donald Trump leading the field of GOP hopefuls. He’s sitting at 18 percent in the crowded contest, three points above next-best contender, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and eight points ahead of the third-place contestant in this wacky gameshow, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Do I need to give another rundown of recent Trump events? He said former POW and Republican Arizona Senator John McCain isn’t a hero because he got caught by the enemy. He equated Mexican immigrants with criminals and rapists and received a death threat from notorious cartel leader El Chapo. Via Twitter. Give him this: the guy knows how to get attention and has never met a question he wants to answer with “I don’t know.”

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.24.2015 5 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Dubose incident report, dispatch calls released; Ziegler Park changes contentious; are state Dems still struggling with infighting?

Hey all. Here’s what’s happening in Cincy today.

University of Cincinnati officials yesterday released the police incident report and dispatch recordings related to the July 19 shooting of Samuel Dubose by officer Ray Tensing. Tensing shot Dubose after a traffic stop over the fact Dubose didn’t have a front license plate on his Honda Accord. The incident report claims that Tensing was dragged by Dubose’s car and says another UC officer witnessed the incident. You can read the report here and listen to the audio of the dispatch here. Dubose’s family has demanded that police body camera video and security footage from a nearby building be released to substantiate that claim. That footage is currently in the hands of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, who has said he will not release it yet because that could bias a potential grand jury. Family and friends of Dubose gathered yesterday outside Deters’ office to protest that decision.


• Meanwhile, UC police will no longer patrol areas off-campus, according to university officials. Starting Monday, the university police force’s patrol policies will be amended in light of the shooting. Questions were raised about why Dubose’s traffic stop took place at the corner of Rice and Thill streets in Mount Auburn, which is half a mile away from the university. According to university police, Tensing initiated the stop much closer to campus and followed Dubose to the location where the stop, and eventual shooting, took place.

• Remember those hilariously fraught public meetings in Parks and Recreation? I attended one last night. A meeting held by the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation and architects Glaserworks to discuss proposed changes to Ziegler Park, a popular space on Sycamore Street across from the former SCPA building, got a little heated as neighborhood residents and advocates questioned the need for an underground parking garage and the efficacy of 3CDC’s outreach efforts to the park’s current users, who are predominantly low-income. The meeting took place a block from the park at the Woodward Theater, a move that raised eyebrows for some activists at the meeting, including Josh Spring from the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. Spring questioned why the meeting wasn’t taking place in the park itself so that it could more easily engage the park’s current users. At the meeting, 3CDC presented tentative plans for the park’s facelift, which will be funded in part by $20 million in Ohio new market tax credits. Those plans come from two past public input sessions, 3CDC says, as well as outreach to park users. Among the proposals: moving the existing pool to another location in the park, adding a splash pad, updating green space within the park, and tying the existing park facilities to green space across the street next to the SCPA. 3CDC’s concept includes putting a parking garage underneath this greenspace in order to free up land currently occupied by other lots. Also on the drawing board: maintaining a popular set of basketball hoops across the street from the park. Removal of hoops and the pool at renovated Washington Park on the otherside of OTR proved very controversial when that park underwent renovation in 2011. Some in attendance expressed concerns that two past meetings were not well-publicized. Other concerns were also raised about the green space neighboring the former SCPA building, which will soon be the site of luxury condos. That space once held structures used by Harriet Beecher Stowe as part of the underground railroad, and some at the meeting voiced wishes that the history there be commemorated and expressed anxiety about disrupting possible historic materials there. 3CDC anticipates holding another meeting to unveil more finished plans later this summer.

• The Ohio Democratic Party is still struggling with infighting, some say, despite new chairman David Pepper’s efforts to unify it following big losses in statewide campaigns in the last election. Democrats in Ohio lost major statewide races, including the race for the governor’s seat, by big margins last year. After that rout, former party chairman Chris Redfern resigned and was replaced by Pepper. Some of the internal tension that has hobbled the party has reemerged, critics say, in the party’s treatment of Cincinnati City Councilman and U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld, who is running against former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland for the Democratic nomination to oppose current Senator Republican Rob Portman. Former Ohio Democratic Party Chair Jim Ruvolo, who served in that role from 1982 to 1991, has blasted Pepper for “sidelining” Sittenfeld in favor of the more well-known Strickland. Ruvolo, who is a consultant for Sittenfeld’s campaign, says it does the party no good to push down young talent like the 30-year-old councilman. Pepper has made statements some have read as demeaning to Sittenfeld, including a suggestion that local officials focus on the jobs in front of them and “put in the time.” Pepper says those statements weren’t meant to malign Sittenfeld or discourage him from running. Pepper says he’s working hard to unify the party in time for 2016, when a major battle between Dems and the GOP will take place over Ohio, which looks to be a decisive state in the presidential election and the scramble for control of the U.S. Senate.

That’s it for your truncated, Friday morning news today. As always, e-mail or tweet with news tips.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.23.2015 6 days ago
Posted In: News, Police at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Protesters Demand Deters Release Dubose Shooting Video

Family, friends demand transparency in investigation of police-involved shooting

A group of about 30 gathered outside Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters' office today to demand release of tapes showing events that led up to the death of Samuel Dubose, who was shot and killed by University of Cincinnati Police July 19 in Mount Auburn following a traffic stop for a missing front license plate. Many of those attending were family or friends of Dubose.

"We are not going away," said his cousin, Ebony Johnson, as she stood outside the prosecutor's office with a license plate. "We are not going anywhere until we get satisfaction and our cousin can rest in peace. I'm sure he's not at rest, because we're not at rest. The sooner this investigation is done and justice is served, we can rest and you won't hear any more from the Dubose family."

The Cincinnati Police Department has finished its probe into the shooting, but Deters says he’ll hold much of that evidence, including multiple videos of the incident, not releasing it to the public despite public records requests from local media, including CityBeat. University of Cincinnati officials indicated a willingness to release those videos during a news conference yesterday, but Deters says making that evidence public would jeopardize the chances of a fair trial for the officer involved, should charges be brought against him. Deters released a statement soon after the protest saying the law is on his side.

"If you do not want to look at the law and just use your common sense, it should be clear why we are not releasing the video only a few days after the incident occurred," the statement said. "We need time to look at everything and do a complete investigation so that the community is satisfied that we did a thorough job. The Grand Jury has not seen the video yet and we do not want to taint the Grand Jury process.  The video will be released at some point -- just not right now.”

Deters plans to wrap up his investigation sometime next week and present his findings to a grand jury. University of Cincinnati Police officer Ray Tensing shot and killed 43-year-old Dubose after a traffic stop initiated because Dubose didn’t have a front license plate. Dubose was driving on a suspended license. According to the official police line of events, Dubose struggled with Tensing over his car door and attempted to drive away. Tensing shot him at that point and then fell to the ground, sustaining minor injuries from Dubose’s car, officials say. Since that time, information has trickled out about the killing, though not nearly enough for Dubose’s family, friends and activists who have staged a number of protests demanding answers about the death of Dubose, who was the father of 13 children.

Protesters outside the Hamilton County Prosecutor's office demand release of evidence in Samuel Dubose shooting
Nick Swartsell

Nygel Miller says he was a friend of Samuel Dubose's from childhood. "We want justice," Miller says. "We want the release of those tapes. We want the officer charged. We want him removed from his duties. We want the officer to be talked about the way our young black men have been spoken about by this prosecutor."


Recently, Deters has been embroiled in controversy over his statements calling people his office prosecutes “soulless” and “thugs" after unrest on July 4 that resulted in items being thrown at police officers and the beating of an Indiana man by several men near Fountain Square.

Meanwhile, protests around Dubose's death have been peaceful so far. But tension is mounting, some say, fueled by distrust in a grand jury system that has failed to indict several officers who have shot unarmed black men in places like Ferguson, Mo. and Beavercreek, Ohio. The tension has an especially profound history in Cincinnati, which suffered days of civil unrest following the 2001 police shooting of unarmed Timothy Thomas. Though Cincinnati Police have undergone reforms since that time, instituting a nationally renowned plan called the Collaborative Agreement, pain remains here. Thirty-one people have died at the hands of police since 2000 in Cincinnati, including three high-profile deaths this year.

"I'm not sure I can continue to hold the anger down," said State Sen. Cecil Thomas, who evoked memories of 2001 at the rally today. "I'm urging him. Release the tapes and let the evidence speak for itself. ... We need that to bring the beginning of some closure to the family."

Thomas pointed to cases in places like Beavercreek, where John Crawford III was shot in a Walmart by Beavercreek police Aug 5, 2014. Officials refused to release security tapes of the incident for months afterward, though the Crawford family and their attorneys were allowed to view them. A grand jury convened by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine declined to indict Crawford's shooter, Officer Sean Williams. Thomas said that, given those events, it's hard for some in the community to believe justice will be served in Dubose's case.

"We want to make sure that the grand jury sees those tapes, unedited," Thomas said. "Right now there's a tremendous amount of distrust as to whether they're going to do the right thing. The prosecutor that was dealing with the Beavercreek situation was assigned from this office here. That begs the question — will this same prosecutor be assigned here if there is an indictment? We have to keep the pressure on, but we're going to be peaceful."
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.23.2015 6 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Deters won't release video in police shooting of Samuel Dubose; Graeter's flavor named among nation's best; Kasich flops on Facebook

Hey y’all. I’ve had the past couple mornings off, so my morning news output has been slacking. But I’m back with a big bunch of stuff to tell you about. Here we go.

Much of the news today is about the police shooting death of Samuel Dubose. CityBeat has been following this incident from the beginning. You can find our story on Dubose and his death here. An investigation into Dubose's killing is already finished after just a couple days, but you and I can’t see the evidence yet. The Cincinnati Police Department has finished its probe into the shooting, but Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has said he’ll hold much of that evidence, including multiple videos of the incident, not releasing it to the public despite public records requests from local media, including CityBeat. University of Cincinnati officials indicated a willingness to release those videos during a news conference yesterday, but Deters says making that evidence public would jeopardize the chances of a fair trial for the officer involved should charges be brought against him. CityBeat will continue to push for the release of the evidence in question.

Deters, who has been embroiled in recent controversy over his statements calling people his office prosecutes “soulless” and “thugs,” plans to wrap up his investigation sometime next week and present his findings to a grand jury. University of Cincinnati Police officer Ray Tensing shot and killed 43-year-old Dubose in Mount Auburn July 19 after a traffic stop initiated because Dubose didn’t have a front license plate. Dubose was driving on a suspended license. According to the official police line of events, Dubose struggled with Tensing over his car door and attempted to drive away. Tensing shot him at that point and then fell to the ground, sustaining minor injuries from Dubose’s car, officials say. Since that time, information has trickled out about the killing, though not nearly enough for Dubose’s family, friends and activists who have staged a number of protests demanding answers about the father of thirteen’s death. The next is scheduled for 11 a.m. today outside Deters’ office downtown.

• Meanwhile, the university is mulling whether its police force should join the city’s collaborative agreement, a federally enforced community-police relations plan put in place after the city’s civil unrest in 2001 over the police shooting death of unarmed Timothy Thomas. That and possibly other reforms are moves the city of Cincinnati supports. UC will review training for its law enforcement officers as a result of the shooting, officials say. The university and the city will also form a committee on community-police relations, which will include city and university officials as well as other police use of force experts like State Senator Cecil Thomas, a former police officer and one of many people who helped push the city’s 2001 agreement.

“We have learned over a long period of time — having made our own mistakes — a pullover related to a license plate should not, in the normal course of events, lead to lethal force,” Mayor John Cranley said at a joint news conference with UC President Santa Ono yesterday. “Therefore, reform is in order.”

The rest of the news today, in short order:

• An all-day tech conference is happening today in Cincy. NewCo Cincinnati features presentations from 50 big names in the local and national start-up and technology industries, including everything from breweries to Procter & Gamble. The unique part of the conference: Attendees go to the businesses, spending time touring their facilities and checking out where the magic happens. The conference is global in scale: 15 events are taking place in cities like New York City, Istanbul and Austin, Texas.

• Cincinnati’s own Graeter’s Ice Cream flavor Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip has been named one of the Top 5 flavors in America by the Food Network. Breaking news: It’s pretty good. I still evangelize for Aglemesis Bros. over Graeter’s, but I’m happy to see the other rad ice cream company in town get some national props.

• So a 19-year-old named Justin Buchannan jumped onto the field at yesterday’s Reds game against the Cubs, filmed himself trying to say hi to the players, jumped over a fence and escaped. That’s pretty epic. He totally made it all the way back to his home in Indiana, too, and probably would never have been caught except he tweeted his video and agreed to interviews on local news. But he says it was worth it and he’s kind of OK with whatever trouble he may be in. That’s the spirit.

• Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday finally officially announced he’s running for president. Want to know more about the GOP hopeful’s record? His long, often controversial policy experience when it comes to education is a good place to start, maybe. Here’s a pretty handy rundown of what Kasich has done for (or, depending on who you talk with, to) public education in Ohio.

• Meanwhile, did Kasich make enough of a splash with his announcement to get a much-needed boost to his national profile? Well, there were a bunch of articles in national media about how Kasich could be a contender if only he could get more attention nationally, which is kind of a weird way to frame giving him more national attention. But the gov kinda flopped on social media, which is where all political decisions are made these days. Kasich stirred up about 261,000 interactions of Facebook in the day following his announcement. Compare that to Donald Trump, another GOP presidential contender (and god help us, he’s the front runner in some polls). Trump’s announcement that he was running for president got 6.4 million interactions on the social media site. Another favorite, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, rustled up 1.6 million interactions. Advice for Kasich: Either get an outlandish hairpiece and make disparaging remarks about protesters and war heroes, or post a lot more cat videos.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.20.2015 9 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
parkway

Morning News and Stuff

UC police-involved shooting in Mount Auburn; Cranley suggests scrapping Central Parkway bike lane; Kasich group releases political ad

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

An unidentified University of Cincinnati police officer shot and killed 43-year-old Sam Dubose during a traffic stop at the corner of Rice and Valencia streets in Mount Auburn around 6:30 p.m. yesterday. Dubose, who has been identified by his family but not yet by law enforcement officials, died in his car from a single gunshot wound to the head. UC police say Dubose dragged an officer with his car before he was shot, resulting in minor injuries to the officer. The corner where Dubose was shot is about half a mile from UC’s campus. Cincinnati Police were subsequently called to the scene to investigate. We’ve made public records requests to both departments. So far, CPD has released only the initial incident report. We’ll update this story as we find out more.

• Mayor John Cranley on Friday suggested that the city “scrap” its Central Parkway bike lane in response to accidents that have occurred on the major downtown thoroughfare. Cranley called the lane a “disaster” that should be removed, pointing to confusion over parking on the street and ire from local business. The bike lane was completed last year after controversy from a few business owners along the route, who said the lane would take away their customers’ parking. A compromise was worked out to preserve much of that parking, but now lane opponents say the way cars must park on the route — in the parkway’s right lane, between traffic and the bike lane — has caused more accidents. A WLWT report says 33 automotive accidents have happened on the parkway since May. It says that multiple times, in fact, without revealing how many of those accidents were directly related to confusion over the lane. In a pretty befuddling oversight, it also doesn’t mention how many accidents happened during the same stretch of time before the lane went in. Hey, a bunch of accidents (way more accidents) happen on the nearby stretch of I-75. We’d better remove that as well. It’s unclear how many, if any, accidents involved cyclists. Cincinnati City Council approved the lanes before Cranley was elected, and a majority of council still stands behind the project. Personally, I have a better idea: If you’re driving your car on Central Parkway, pay attention to the road and don’t run into other cars.

• The University of Cincinnati might soon spend more than $70 million to renovate its Fifth Third Arena, according to plans released last week. The 26-year-old facility houses the men’s and women’s basketball teams, the women’s volleyball team and other athletic groups. The plans call for a reduction in the more than 13,000 seats now in the building and the creation of more premium, high-price seating like the 16 private suites the arena currently boasts. University officials say they haven’t made a decision about whether or not to carry out the renovations because they’re waiting on more information about the potential project.

• David Hansen, the Ohio Department of Education official responsible for the oversight of charter school sponsors has stepped down. Hansen resigned from his position after it was revealed last week that he omitted data from low-scoring online charter schools in reports about charter school sponsor performance in order to make charters look better. The reports possibly set up two charter sponsors run by Republican donors for more financial help from the state. Hansen has said he felt the poor performance data from the online charters “masked” better performance by other charter schools in the state.

• Well, Gov. John Kasich will announce that he’s seeking the GOP nomination for president tomorrow, which should come as no surprise to anyone, since he’s been campaigning for months. The timing is designed to give Kasich the biggest bump possible ahead of selection of the Republican contenders who will be invited to the party’s first debate in Cleveland later this year. Only the 10 highest-polling candidates will be invited to the debate, and there are (depending on who you ask) anywhere between 16 and several thousand people running for the GOP nod.

Ahead of his announcement, New Day for America, the nonprofit associated with Kasich’s almost-campaign, has released its first ad touting Kasich’s conservative record. There’s a minute-long version of the spot and a longer,

Read More

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.17.2015 12 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_banks_condos_ck

Morning News and Stuff

Toby Keith didn't love this bar that much; jilted Trump still hating on Macy's; DeWine to investigate Planned Parenthood

Good morning all. Here’s your news today.

Well, Toby Keith says his favorite bar has winners and losers, but it seems like Mr. Keith himself is on the losing end lately. The country star’s Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill location at The Banks was shuttered suddenly yesterday, reportedly due to being a year behind on its rent. That’s the fifth Toby Keith’s location to close recently; the chain’s Minneapolis, Houston, Mesa, Ariz. and Folsom, CA locations have also shut down. The bar is the fourth closure at Cincinnati’s highly-touted riverfront development, which has taken more than a decade to materialize. Last year, soul food restaurant Mahogany’s closed there with much controversy and original tenant Johnny Rockets has also pulled out of the development. Representatives with Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate Inc., which handles leasing for the development, say they’re confident another tenant will fill the space in short order. Mahogany’s location is now filled with Santo Graal, while the Johnny Rocket’s location has yet to be filled.

• If you’re holding your breath that some how, some way, a new morgue and crime lab could still come to the former Mercy Mt. Airy hospital, well, you can breathe now because it ain't gonna happen. Crews began tearing down the building yesterday. The hospital group had made efforts to donate the building to Hamilton County after closing the location in 2013. But after paying more than $1 million in upkeep costs for the building, Republican Hamilton County commissioners balked at the cost of retrofitting the facility to house the county’s critically-overcrowded crime lab, morgue and other county offices. Political considerations also played a part — Democrats, including commissioner Todd Portune, were opposed to a proposal that would have put the county’s board of elections at the location, saying it was too far removed from the neighborhoods were many low-income, non-driving voters lived. Mercy will hold onto the vacant land the hospital has occupied for now until it finds a suitable buyer.

• Breaking news: Donald Trump still doesn’t like Macy’s. After the GOP presidential nomination contender last month made some pretty racist comments about Mexicans, equating immigrants to rapists and murderers, Macy’s ceased carrying his line of paisley-infected menswear. Trump at the time said Macy’s didn’t account for much of his sales anyway, and that he wanted to pull out from the store. But that wasn’t enough, apparently. Trump has continued to dump on the Cincinnati-based retailer, saying they “suck and are bad for America.” Trump also revealed he was friends with Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren and felt personally betrayed by the department store’s decision. But wait, didn’t Trump say he decided to leave? Welcome to the wacky world of the Donald, who is currently one of the top-polling picks for the GOP presidential nomination. Pop up some popcorn because I could sit back and watch this feud between the megalomaniacal real estate tycoon and big old corporate entity all day. It’s like Godzilla vs. Mothra, only Godzilla had better hair than Trump does.

• I told you yesterday about the recent controversy over some low-scoring online charter schools left out of a report on the effectiveness of Ohio’s charter school authorization groups, a move that seems to have broken Ohio law. Republican State Auditor Dave Yost has since said he’s “concerned” about that omission and is examining the situation, but is not yet launching an official investigation. The groups measured in the study oversee charter schools across the state. The Ohio Department of Education’s Director of Quality School Choice and Funding David J. Hansen is responsible for the oversight, which left a number of online charter schools with “F” grades on state performance rankings out of a consideration of charter school performance. Hansen, incidentally, used to helm a pro-charter conservative education think tank called Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions. He’s also the husband of Kasich’s presidential campaign manager, Beth Hansen. It’s unclear when or if an official state investigation into the omission will begin.

• A new law signed yesterday by Gov. John Kasich takes some restrictions off the drug naloxone, allowing the medicine to be more quickly and easily administered to heroin overdose victims. The new rules allow doctors to give the drug to individuals who can administer it to friends or family having an overdose. It also relaxes rules on pharmacies, who can now distribute it without a prescription in certain cases.

• Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced he will investigate Ohio Planned Parenthood clinics after a video came to light earlier this week allegedly showing a high-level member of that organization talking about organs from aborted fetuses. A California-based conservative group says it posed as organ buyers and that the official, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, is shown discussing the sale of organs from fetuses. That’s illegal, though not-for-profit donation of organs with a woman’s permission is allowed in many states.. Planned Parenthood says that’s exactly what is going on in the video. Dr. Nucatola is heard at one point in the video saying, “nobody should be selling tissue. That’s just not the goal here.” Republican lawmakers in D.C. and a number of states have jumped on the video, calling it disgusting and demanding all public funding be stripped from Planned Parenthood. Despite denials of wrongdoing, Planned Parenthood did apologize for Nucatola’s tone and statements in the video, saying they didn’t reflect the organization’s goal of providing compassionate care. The group says Nucatola has been ‘reprimanded” for her statements. Though the video wasn’t filmed in Ohio, DeWine has vowed to investigate Planned Parenthood in the state to make sure they’re following all laws related to handling of fetal tissue.

That’s it for me today. Tweet at me or e-mail with suggestions for the best summer swimming spots. It’s getting hot out there.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.16.2015 13 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news pendleton

Morning News and Stuff

City to scrutinize minority contracts in wake of Evans investigation; grownups ride big wheels through Pendleton; Kasich campaign group hires pro-gay GOP group leader

Good morning Cincy. Here’s what’s up in the news today.

The city of Cincinnati is instituting new measures to vet minority-owned businesses in the wake of a federal investigation of Evans Landscaping, which is suspected of minority hiring fraud. Evans subcontracted to minority-owned Ergon Site Construction LLC for $1.9 million in demolition contracts with the city and more than $8 million in state contracts meant for minority-owned businesses. Lawsuits between the two companies have drawn scrutiny as to whether Evans was using Ergon as a “front” company to funnel contracts meant for minority-owned businesses to Evans. Ergon was formed in 2010 by an Evans IT consultant. Now, the city says it will better scrutinize the minority contracts it awards to make sure the minority-owned businesses it is awarding contracts to aren’t just fronts for larger companies.

• Kokosing Construction Company has been fined for its role in the fatal overpass collapse near I-75 that took the life of worker Brandon Carl in January. The out-of-service overpass was being demolished when it collapsed, killing Carl. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration investigated that accident and found that Kokosing didn’t do enough to inspect the overpass before placing heavy machinery on it that it could not support. OSHA has suggested $14,000 in fines against the company, which Kokosing has agreed to pay. The company will also utilize third-party firms to perform inspections over the next five years as part of the deal with OSHA.

• We’ve officially moved beyond adult kickball leagues as the vanguard of urban young professional weirdness. Adults on bigwheels are coming to Pendleton, the neighborhood just north of the Horseshoe Casino and just east of Over-the-Rhine. An event called Danger Wheel will take place this Saturday and involves 45 big wheel teams racing down the neighborhood’s streets. Each team paid $100 to be in the race, money that will be used to put up historical markers and planters around the neighborhood. Local brews, food trucks and music will also be on site for spectators. Question: Are the bigwheels standardized, or like, can someone come in with a souped-up super big wheel that runs on nitrous oxide and just take the whole thing?

• City Hall has a new assistant city manager, and unlike other recent big hires, he’s been promoted from within. John Juech is currently a senior policy advisor for City Manager Harry Black. Before that, he managed Vice Mayor David Mann’s office. The city’s other assistant city manager, Sheila Hill-Christian, is also new. She started in May. The duo replace outgoing Assistant City Manager Scott Stiles, who is departing to become city manager of Garden Grove, California, and Bill Moller, who departed his role for a job with the Uptown Consortium.

• Lawmakers filed a bipartisan bill in the Ohio House today that would abolish Ohio’s death penalty and replace it with a life without parole sentence. Lakewood Democrat Rep. Nickle Antonio and Miamisburg Republican Niraj Antani sponsored the bill. They argue high cost, moral problems and difficulty obtaining execution drugs are reasons why Ohio should stop executing inmates. This is the third time Antonio has filed the bill, and it’s unclear if it has better prospects among other lawmakers this time around. Antani says it’s an issue of limiting big government. “To me there can be no bigger government with no bigger power than the right to execute its own citizens," he said. "Even the chance that an innocent individual can be put to death is reason enough to repeal that."  

• Marijuana legalization group ResponsibleOhio received a final clearance to circulate petitions for a proposed law that would expunge certain drug convictions. The proposal, which needs about 92,000 signatures from Ohioans to come before the state legislature, would be a companion piece to the group’s marijuana legalization constitutional amendment, for which the group has collected more than 700,000 signatures across the state. Should at least 300,000 of those signatures prove valid, ResponsibleOhio’s proposal will go onto the November ballot. The group is proposing legalizing marijuana for anyone 21 and over but limiting commercial growth of the crop to 10 grow sites around the state controlled by the group’s investors. Should ResponsibleOhio get enough signatures for its companion expungement law, it will go before lawmakers next year.

• A group closely allied with Gov. John Kasich’s campaign has hired Matt David, a leader of a prominent pro-gay GOP group. David will work for New Day for America, a nonprofit supporting Kasich’s bid for president. In the past, David occupied a leadership role with Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, a pro-marriage equality group. Kasich has opposed gay marriage rights, but David’s hire could mean Kasich will attempt to make inroads into the LGBT community. Not that New Day for America’s new hire is a liberal: David worked on George W. Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004 and John McCain’s presidential run in 2008. The staffing decision comes as Kasich gears up for his official campaign launch next week.

 
 
 
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