Happy Monday, Cincy! Hope everyone had a great weekend. Here are your morning headlines.
• The Cincinnati Red Bike program celebrates its one-year anniversary tomorrow, and it's had a great start. In the past 12 months, the bike share program has blown the lid off of initial first year projections. It has logged more than 87,000 rides, 69-percent more than initial predictions, and membership is at 1,330, 42-percent more than predicted. Stations were expanded out to Northside and northern Kentucky earlier than planned due to its popularity, and it now has 50 stations, 20 more than when the program launched. Best yet, the Red Bike hasn't lost a single bike! Red Bike officials say this kind of growth into the second and third year isn't expected, and some stations — like the ones in Northside and Uptown — aren't being used as much as they'd like. But that's not stopping the program from celebrating. In addition to throwing itself a birthday bash at Taft's Ale House in OTR, bike rentals will be only a dollar on its anniversary tomorrow.
• Officials from the city and the arts community this afternoon will reveal the group that will be renovating Music Hall. The 2 p.m. press conference will include details about the crew that will help with the $125 million project. The historic building is in dire need of repairs and updates, as duct tape holds the carpet in place in some areas, old hemp rope is still used behind the scenes, buckets are set up to catch leaks and narrow passageways and doors make staging difficult to get through the 137-year-old structure, officials say.
• The Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police is expected to issue a vote of confidence for Interim Police Chief Eliot Isaac today. Isaac was promoted to assistant police chief in July and received this quick bump up in ranks after City Manager Harry Black fired former Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell last Wednesday. Isaac is a 26-year veteran of the CPD and had been serving as captain since 2004 before being promoted to assistant chief this summer.
• City Manager Harry Black's memo released last Wednesday, the day Blackwell was fired, cited low morale, frequent absences and described Blackwell as too self-promotional, among the reasons why the police chief was fired for cause, but the Enquirer is questioning whether his community-focused policing approach played a part in his dismissal. Blackwell's approach to working with kids in the community through programs like the Right to Read program and a recently launched pilot program that would extend hours in community centers has been cited as a model for police stations by some outside of Cincinnati but possibly shook the city's confidence in him during a recent spike in shootings.
CityBeat will update this story as more information becomes available.
Good morning y’all. Here’s a brief rundown of the news today before you head off for your weekend.
At a news conference this morning, the Cincinnati Fire Department released a report on the March 26 death of FAO Daryl Gordon, the 54-year-old who was killed after falling down an elevator shaft while responding to a fire in Madisonville. That report reveals that other firefighters wrote a warning on the door to that elevator shaft just minutes before Gordon fell. “Do not enter, open shaft,” the black scrawl on the white door reads. Officials with CFD believe thick smoke and dim lighting conditions may have prevented Gordon from seeing the warning. He was in the building about 10 minutes, working to rescue some of the 29 residents who were eventually removed from the structure. Gordon’s death was the first for CFD in seven years. The department plans to use the report released today to review its operating procedures and avoid a similar accident in the future.
• Another important report is coming down the pike today. The University of Cincinnati Police Department will release its initial findings in the investigation into the police shooting death of Samuel DuBose by UC officer Ray Tensing. The shooting happened after Tensing pulled DuBose over for a routine traffic stop. When DuBose refused to exit his car and turned the key in the ignition, Tensing shot him in the head. DuBose’s car then rolled for more than a block. Many, including Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, have called the shooting inexcusable, but Tensing and his attorneys argue he acted in self defense and felt he would be dragged by the vehicle. Tensing is charged with murder in the incident and will stand trial later this year.
• An historic theater in Northern Kentucky could soon become another area brewery. Bellevue City Council yesterday approved a proposal by Cincinnati-based developer Kent Hardman to convert the 73-year-old Marianne Theater in Bellevue into a unique entertainment venue that just happens to brew beer as well. Hardman wants to retain the theater’s stage and screen to show movies and stage live shows. This kind of setup has seen big success in other parts of the country, including my former home of Austin, which has the Alamo Drafthouse, a theater where you can drink. They also serve great food. If developers find a way to bring chicken wings into the NKY plan, I’ll be there every week.
• The latest GOP polls from the early presidential primary state of Iowa are about what you’d expect on first glance, with some surprising details once you dig in. According to the Quinnipiac University poll released today, Ohio’s guy, Gov. John Kasich, aka K-Dawg, aka Big Queso, (OK I’ll stop now) is in fifth place with 5 percent of the vote. That’s surprising considering Kasich hasn’t really been focusing much on Iowa and because other polls in past months have had him down around 2 percent of the vote. That ascendancy is the good news for him, however. The bad news is he’s in a three-way tie for fifth and he and the rest of the GOP field are being dominated by a real estate Svengali with a bad hairpiece. Yes, Donald Trump is still on top, followed by former doctor Ben Carson. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush round out the top four. A surprise at the bottom of the list is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who leads Iowa’s next door neighbors and was at one point the front runner in the GOP’s Random House sweepstakes-style contest for president. What a mess.
• Hey, so check this out. Did the above 2016 rundown give you a headache? Are you daunted by the fact we have well over a year of this garbage we have to pay attention to before the election? Are you ready to throw in the towel?
Well, here’s a brief illustration of why all this stuff matters. As Democrats and Republicans tussle over which of their problematic candidates will fight the other party’s problematic candidate in a gross-out battle of yawn-inducing personal attacks, political back-flipping and the like, multiple perches on the U.S. Supreme Court might be at stake. That’s right. Our judges are aging, with three in their 80s, and the next president may well get to appoint a significant number of replacements as they retire. Given the huge role the nation’s highest court has played in recent issues (see: same-sex marriage, abortion, affordable housing, affirmative action, etc.) and the fact that presidents usually choose a judge who roughly agrees with them ideologically, that’s super-terrifying.
So, you know. Pay attention. Vote. All that good stuff.
Heya, Cincinnati. Let’s talk about news, because, oh dang, we’ve got a lot to discuss.
As we noted yesterday morning, Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black has fired police chief Jeffrey Blackwell, replacing him with CPD Assistant Chief Eliot Isaac, a 26-year veteran of the department. The firing took place quickly and was announced at the same time a 35-page report on Blackwell’s shortcomings was released. The reports, which you can read here and here, are alarming.
But Blackwell’s abrupt firing sparked something that can only be described as a deeply embarrassing shitstorm at City Hall.
You can read more about that here, but here are the cliff notes: Blackwell’s supporters crammed into Council chambers to speak during the public input session of Council’s regular meeting, only to find they had no place to sit due to a large number of chairs reserved for CPD officers. City Council members complained they did not have time to read the study on the climate within CPD, which was conducted by the city manager, before learning of Blackwell’s termination. The input session was disorganized and chaotic, sometimes degenerating into complete disorder as Mayor John Cranley and individual council members verbally sniped at each other. Cranley had at least a few members of the public removed from the chambers for talking over him and drew boos from the crowd when he was perceived as talking down to opposing council members like Yvette Simpson and Chris Seelbach.
Some on Council, including Charterite Kevin Flynn and Democrat Vice Mayor David Mann, expressed sadness that the situation had come to firing the chief, but said the report — which found 82 percent of the nearly 500 officers surveyed had very low morale and contained testimony from three officers about favoritism, retaliation and vanity by the chief — left no other option. Others, however, including former CPD officer Wendell Young and Simpson had deep misgivings about the process by which the firing took place, decrying what they say is a lack of transparency and professionalism.
Black and Cranley pushed back against those assertions, saying the climate assessment was a careful, methodical effort undertaken over the course of months.
Blackwell himself showed up to the meeting, but did not speak before Council. He left shortly after arriving, a group of supporters and media trailing him. He suggested he would file a lawsuit against the city, called out members of the media he felt had been unfair to him and stressed that he loved the people of Cincinnati.
The dismissal, the subsequent tumult and City Hall and the fact that Cincinnati is once again searching for a new police chief — its third in four years — all made national headlines.
An interesting side note: While considering the until-yesterday unseen evidence against Blackwell, it’s informative to remember past struggles CPD has had with leadership. Here are some articles about former chief Thomas Streicher from back in 2009, published in your favorite Cincinnati weekly. Streicher, who it seems ruled CPD with a harsh, sometimes arbitrary fist, was never removed from his post but instead retired in 2011.
• Phew. So that happened. What else is going on? Well, the New York Times Magazine apparently thinks the University of Cincinnati’s campus is pretty enough to feature it in a big photo essay, highlighting a number of the uptown campus’ buildings designed by famous architects. The photo feature’s title — Cincinnati Starchitecture — is cringe-worthy, but the photos are pretty nice. EDIT: In my morning haziness and rush to give you all the news stuff, I missed this much more substantive article about UC's efforts to build top-notch architecture in a bid to compete for students that, uh, ran with the above photo essay. Oops. My bad. That's much better, New York Times.
• Here we go again: Is House Speaker and West Chesterite John Boehner on his way out as the top dog in the House of Representatives? Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina, has once again fired warning shots over Boehner’s bow, saying that the speaker’s position on a number of issues could trigger a revolt from conservatives in the House. Earlier this summer, Meadows introduced a measure in the House that hammered Boehner on his leadership and, if voted through, would strip him of his position. That measure hasn’t been taken up for a vote, but there are methods by which conservative members of the House could take it up, Meadows recently said, noting that he and other far-right conservatives are watching the speaker closely.
• Cincinnati activists and legal experts are in Ferguson, Mo. offering advice and warnings as a commission wraps up a report on last year’s civil unrest over the police killing of unarmed 18-year-old Mike Brown there. Community activists Iris Roley and Pastor Damon Lynch III, as well as attorney Al Gerhardstein, were all instrumental in pushing for Cincinnati’s collaborative agreement, which arose from similar unrest here following the 2001 police shooting of an unarmed black man named Timothy Thomas. The three addressed the Ferguson Commission, which is set to release a report with recommendations for ways to improve law enforcement oversight and police-community relations. The group admonished the commission to actively and tirelessly work on the issue, instead of just publishing their report and moving on. You can read more about their advice to Ferguson here.
• Finally, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is in Columbus today making a campaign appearance at a “Women for Hillary” organizing event. She’ll focus on issues facing women at that event, including the pay gap, reproductive rights, parental leave and other issues. Clinton is seen as the frontrunner in the Democratic primary, though self-professed socialist Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders has been gaining in the polls, drawing big crowds to rallies around the country. Clinton thus far has been hobbled by questions around her use of a private email address during her tenure as U.S. Secretary of State. She recently addressed that controversy, apologizing for her use of a separate email address to conduct official government business but maintaining that she did not break any laws while doing so.
That’s it for me. Find me on Twitter or shoot me an email with news tips, bad jokes or suggestions for cool fall road trips.
Good morning all. Let’s get right to the news.
It’s a big day at City Hall, and so the morning news today is all about what's going on with city government.
First, a breaking story. Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black announced today that he has fired Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell. He’s named current CPD Assistant Chief Eliot Isaac to the role of interim chief. We’ll update shortly.
Meanwhile, there will be a show of support for former chief Blackwell today at 12:30 p.m. outside City Hall. The group We’ve Got Blackwell’s Back organized that event in response to a looming Sept. 14 Fraternal Order of Police meeting where union leadership says there will be a vote of no confidence by officers. Blackwell’s critics say the Cincinnati Police Department has critical staffing, communication and morale issues that have festered this summer as gun crimes rose, the department dealt with the shooting death of officer Sonny Kim and other difficult circumstances challenged the department. But the chief’s supporters say he’s done a fantastic job during a difficult time in the city and that his potential ouster is political in nature. They point to the fact that when he was campaigning for mayor, Cranley asked then-City Manager Milton Dohoney not to hire a chief until the election was finished so the newly elected mayor could have a say in the hiring. Dohoney hired Blackwell despite this request. Blackwell’s supporters say Cranley would like to oust Blackwell and install his own choice for police chief.
Blackwell’s firing might have some consequences for the city. Yesterday, the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice told the city it would relocate its 2016 and 2017 conventions if Blackwell were removed from his post unjustly. That could cost the city $1 million, a letter from the organization cautioned. Blackwell is a member of NABCJ.
• Council might refer to committee a parental leave plan suggested by council members Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson. That plan would allow up to six weeks of parental leave for city employees. The first two weeks would come out of the employee’s accrued leave. The next four are covered by the city at 70 percent of the employee’s salary. The plan would cost the city an estimated $140,000 a year. It’s in line with state practices and similar leave plans passed by cities like Dayton.
The proposal, which Seelbach and Simpson have been developing since this spring, looked like it might have competition from another parental leave plan put forward by Mayor John Cranley recently. Seelbach and Simpson expressed consternation over that proposal, saying they weren’t invited to participate in drafting the competing plan or even notified of the press conference at which it was announced. That plan would have let employees take the same six weeks off, but would have had city workers borrowing time off from future leave time instead of having it covered by the city. It seemed like a showdown was brewing over the two plans, but Cranley has signaled his support for Simpson and Seelbach’s proposal, saying its costs are reasonable and admitting their plan mirrors best practices elsewhere in the state.
• Mayor Cranley’s tax levy proposal for making capital improvements to the city’s parks got a victory and a loss yesterday. The Hamilton County Board of Elections unanimously certified the ballot language for the initiative, despite legal challenges alleging that the language was misleading. Meanwhile, long-time parks advocate and former Cincinnati vice mayor Marian Spencer pulled her endorsement of the project. Spencer cited the fact that the measure would become part of the city’s charter, a permanent change, instead of subject to democratic review. She called that “bad policy.” She also said the language of the charter amendment doesn’t guarantee that attractions built with the money raised by the levy will be free and open to the public. She cited the Smale Riverfront Park carousel as an example. Users must pay to ride that attraction. Finally, Spencer echoed other charter amendment opponents in pointing out that under the proposal, the mayor and the parks board will have full control over what is built with the estimated $5 million a year the levy will draw in. City Council will have no say in the projects. Spencer was a co-chair of the campaign before she jumped ship; she appeared with Cranley at the news conference announcing the proposal.
• Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus might run for Hamilton County Commissioner against Republican Greg Hartmann in 2016. If she wins, that could shift the balance of power on the currently Republican-led body.
• A deputy clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky has said he will issue same-sex marriage licenses even if the head county clerk, Kim Davis, orders him not to. Davis went to jail over a federal contempt of court finding last week because she refused to administer marriage licenses despite a court order.
• Kentucky state tax credits for a low-income housing development in Covington will stay despite protests from some city officials and business owners there.
Phew! That’s a lot of big stuff. That’s all for me today, but stay tuned for more info on City Council and other news going on throughout the city. Follow me on Twitter for updates.
UPDATE: Supporters of fired Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell took to the steps of City Hall Cincinnati City Council chambers to voice their opposition to the chief's dismissal by City Manager Harry Black. Former chief Blackwell himself appeared at Council's public input session, though he was not invited to speak before Council. Afterward, he told reporters outside the chamber that he would file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city, saying he didn't learn why he was being fired from the city and that he still hasn't seen the reports released today about his performance.
Dozens crowded into Council chambers and signed up to speak in favor of the chief. At times, the public hearing got contentious, with Council members and Mayor John Cranley verbally sparring with each other.
Simpson said Blackwell was escorted from CPD HQ after firing. "If this is justified, give this man, Council, the public, the chance to read [the report against Blackwell]," Simpson said. That report had been released just hours earlier.
Councilmembers Simpson, Wendell Young, P.G. Sittenfeld and Chris Seelbach, while acknowledging the seriousness of the charges against Blackwell, said they took deep issue with the way in which he was dismissed. They pointed to the fact they didnt' find out the firing was happening until this morning and that the swearing-in for the interim chief, Eliot Isaac, was taking place immediately after the public hearing.
The tense atmosphere was perhaps exacerbated by rows of chairs reserved for police officers and their families, leaving community members standing toward the back of the room. At times, the mayor took a strong, almost antagonistic approach to public commenters and his critics on Council. At one point, Cranley scolded Councilwoman
Yvette Simpson for raising her voice and cut her off, saying her
allotted six minutes were up. Later in the meeting, after several warnings, Cranley had a few members of the public removed by officers for interrupting while he was speaking.
Some Councilmembers, including former Cincinnati Police officer Young, questioned the appearance the large group of CPD officers in the room presented, saying it heightened tensions. City Manager Harry Black then dismissed many of the officers until the public hearing concluded.
Cranley and Black admonished Councilmembers and the public not to rush to judgement, and to read the report detailing the allegations against Blackwell. Cranley called the evidence against Blackwell "overwhelming" and said that anyone reading the report would conclude that Black "made the right choice."
City Manager Harry Black announced this morning that he has fired Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell due to "lack of sufficient and proper communication, particularly within the
command staff, coupled with a consistent and pervasive disregard for the
chain of command," according to a 35-page memo the city released today. That memo contained testimony from CPD officials alleging poor leadership from the chief.
The city also released a department climate assessment that says a lack of communication, leadership and technology has contributed to low morale and has put the department at risk of high rates of officer attrition.
Black announced that Assistant Police Chief Eliot Isaac, a 26-year veteran of CPD, will be the interim police chief.
Among the allegations against Blackwell in the report, which includes statements from CPD Specialist Scotty Johnson and Public Information Officer Tiffany Hardey, are charges that Blackwell has been verbally abusive and retaliatory toward officers, that he has been unavailable during critical moments in recent months, that he played favorites in assigning overtime, that he spent too much time self-promoting, including taking selfies at the funeral of murdered CPD officer Sonny Kim and that he used his perch as chief to get free tickets to sporting events.
Blackwell has been embattled for months. Early this summer, severance documents between Blackwell and the city came to light, though these were never signed by the chief and he asserted he was staying on the force. More recently, Cincinnati's Fraternal Order of Police announced a Sept. 14 meeting, and union leadership said officers would take a vote of no confidence in Blackwell.
Blackwell’s critics say the Cincinnati Police Department's critical staffing, communication and morale issues have festered this
summer as gun crimes rose, the department dealt with the shooting death of
officer Sonny Kim and other difficult circumstances challenged the department.
But the chief’s supporters, including some council members and other public figures, say he’s done a fantastic job during a difficult time in the city and that his potential ouster is political in nature. They point to the fact that when he was campaigning for mayor, Cranley asked then-City Manager Milton Dohoney not to hire a chief until the election was finished so the newly elected mayor could have a say in the hiring. Dohoney hired Blackwell despite this request. Blackwell’s supporters say Cranley would like to oust Blackwell and install his own choice for police chief.
Hey, Cincy! I can only hope you're recovering a long weekend of sun and hot dogs. As you recover from your hangover and sunburns, you can catch up on today's headlines.
• City Manager Harry Black hits the one year mark working for the city today. To celebrate, Mayor John Cranley would like to give him a raise, but some council members are questioning if he should get one before he undergoes a review. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson has called for a formal review of Black's performance before pay increase is approved. Black currently makes $245,000 per year, and his contract states that an annual review should set up through the mayor and city council, though the only review done so far has been a in-person, verbal review by Mayor Cranley with no documentation for the press to review. Black has been criticized by some for being too aligned with Cranley. In the last year, Black has had to deal with the deaths of a police officer, firefighter and construction worker, a spike in shootings and a rocky relationship with Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and a significant restructuring of the city workforce.
• So how much money would legalizing marijuana bring to Ohio? Numbers vary, according to the Enquirer, but they're in the billions. A task force headed by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters released a report in July estimating that if the ResponsibleOhio ballot initiative passes, retail sales could bring in $2.26 billion. But an estimate by New Frontier, an analytics firm in Washington D.C., put that number at $1.8 billion. So, we're not really sure. What we do know is that the super PAC is spending million on advertising campaigns to push through a constitutional amendment to legalize growth of the plant that would limit that growth to 10 commercial farms in the state. Individuals could purchase a license for $50 that would allow the growth of four plants, but without the ability to sell them.
• Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis spent Labor Day weekend
in jail for refusing to issue marriage license to same-sex couples,
claiming it violates her religious beliefs. Her attorneys filed an appeal for her release yesterday, but in the meantime, Ohio governor and Republican presidential nominee John Kasich, who opposes same-sex marriage, says Davis should follow the law and issue the licenses. Davis has found supporters in other GOP candidates, though. Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee will join protesters today outside the jail where Davis is being held to demand her release. UPDATE: Davis was ordered released from jail by a federal judge this afternoon.
• The FBI is investigating a former Ohio State professor who mysteriously resigned and disappeared last March. Engineering Professor Rongxing Li had been the director of the OSU mapping and geographic information system laboratory and was known for his work with NASA on 2003 and 2009 exploration missions. The FBI has filed federal search warrants in Columbus to determine if Li was sharing defense secrets with the Chinese. In early 2014, Li submitted a $36.9 million proposal to do imaging work for a 2020 NASA mission to Mars where he was exposed to U.S. defense information he was prohibited from sharing with the Chinese. It has since come to light that Li has significant ties to a Chinese university.
Good morning all. Here’s the news today as we head into the long Labor Day weekend. I’ll be brief so we can all get there a little quicker, eh?
Cincinnati City Councilman and former Cincinnati Police officer Wendell Young says Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell has become a distraction and should move on. Young has until recently made statements of support for the chief but now says the negative attention and “sniping” has “achieved its desired result” and undermined Blackwell as the head of the department. Young says he still thinks Blackwell has done a good job in his two years as chief, but political turmoil at the city and within CPD as well as a tough summer that saw officer Sonny Kim shot and a rise in gun violence have taken their toll. Young says it’s in the city’s best interest and Blackwell’s that he move on.
Others on Council, as well as community members, however, continue to stick by the chief. Young’s fellow Democratic council members Yvette Simpson, Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld have all made statements supporting Blackwell. He’s gotten a show of support outside City Hall, too — a Facebook group called “We’ve Got Blackwell’s Back” popped up yesterday and has garnered hundreds of followers. The support comes amid controversy, however, as rumors have swirled all summer about city leaders’ unhappiness with Blackwell and low morale at CPD. Cincinnati’s Fraternal Order of Police President Kathy Harrell has called a special Sept. 14 meeting to discuss those concerns, and some media outlets report that officers might take a vote of no confidence in Blackwell at that gathering.
• Some parents are fighting back against Cincinnati Public Schools' controversial decision to end first-come, first-served enrollment for the city’s sought-after magnet schools, forming a group called Cincinnatians for School Access to advocate for a return to that policy. CPS ended first-come, first-served last month, citing the nearly two-week camp outs district parents were undertaking in order to be first in line to enroll their children at schools like the Fairview-Clifton German Language School. The district says the first-come, first-served policy isn’t fair because some students don’t have parents who can afford to spend two weeks waiting in line to enroll. They’ve replaced the former system with a randomized lottery, at least for this year. But parents like those in CSA say that takes control out of parents’ hands. The new parent group is pushing to gain more members and convince CPS to reconsider the change.
• A couple quick business notes: First, I’m not much for fashion. Like, I think about it exactly never. If you’ve ever seen me walking to work, at City Hall covering Council, out on Saturday night or well, anywhere, really, you know this already. But I have to admit I have a weakness for cool sneakers, which makes me kinda excited about this news: Corporate, a mid-to-high-end sneaker boutique located in Hyde Park, is opening up a second store in Over-the-Rhine on Vine Street. The new location will focus less on athletic wear, owners say, and more on lifestyle-type gear. That’s great because I could use some new kicks and I really hate taking the bus to Hyde Park. But it’s also not-so-great because that’s on my walk home from work and I’m really worried about the toll all that temptation will take on my bank account.
• I think it’s pretty uncommon to celebrate your first birthday with a round of beers, but that’s the big plan for the one-year anniversary of Cincinnati Red Bike. The bike share company started Sept. 15 last year, and to celebrate they’ve partnered with the also recently opened Taft’s Ale House for a special brew commemorating the occasion. The two are just a block apart from each other in Over-the-Rhine, so the collaboration seemed like a natural way to have a party. Taft’s will create the Red Bike-themed brew, a low-alcohol lager (can’t be swerving on those rental bikes, after all) and host the big, bike-beer-birthday bash Sept. 15.
• An initial review of records detailing charter school accountability data flubs at the Ohio Department of Education is turning up some fairly disconcerting stuff. The state released 100,000 pages of records to media yesterday, some of which shows personnel at the ODE collaborating to goose charter school sponsor data by leaving out low-performing online charter schools. So far, the scandal around the data-fixing has revolved mostly around now-resigned ODE official David Hansen, husband of Gov. John Kasich's chief of staff Beth Hansen. But the emails and other documents released yesterday seem to show Hansen and other ODE officials discussed the data and how results might make charter school sponsors look better. Officials with the state say the records indicate that no one high up in the state's administration, including Kasich, was aware that the data-rigging was happening, though an analysis of the documents by journalists has yet to wrap up.
• This morning was another historic step for marriage equality as same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky were finally able to get marriage licenses there. The couples had been denied licenses despite the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this summer legalizing same-sex marriage across the country. County Clerk Kim Davis ceased issuing any marriage licenses at all, saying same-sex marriage violated her religious beliefs. Her refusal led to a court battle, which finally ended yesterday, when Davis was put in jail after being found in contempt of federal court. Couples in Rowan made their way through throngs of media, supporters and protesters to receive their licenses from deputy clerks early this morning.
• Finally, a little bit of national good news: Unemployment in the U.S. has fallen to a seven-and-a-half-year low at 5.1 percent. It’s not all great news, though. The country gained somewhat fewer jobs than expected, and wages didn’t rise much, either.
All right. I'm out. Have a great long weekend!
Good morning all. Here’s what’s happening in the news today.
Cincinnati’s Fraternal Order of Police is set to cast a vote of no confidence regarding CPD Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, according to union leadership. Union President Kathy Harrell is convening the Sept. 14 meeting to address what she says are issues around low morale, staffing and other concerns from officers. Though Harrell says she believes officers will cast the no confidence vote, that’s not set in stone, and the meeting will include an open forum during which officers can voice their opinions.
The meeting comes as Cincinnati experiences something of a spike in gun violence, which is up 30 percent from last year. Some other crimes are also up slightly — as a whole, violent crime has risen 3 percent since this time last year — but that follows an abnormally quiet year last year, and overall crime rates line up with the past few years in the city. Other cities have also seen upticks in crime, some much more drastic than Cincinnati. But city leaders have said that’s no excuse and have pushed for new crime reduction measures. Blackwell introduced a 90-day crime reduction plan earlier this summer, which has gotten mixed reviews from the city manager, mayor and other leaders. Earlier in the summer, questions swirled around whether Blackwell was departing the force; city documents outlining his exit were detailed in media reports, though they were never signed and the chief stayed on. In June, black police union the Sentinels unanimously voted their support for the chief.
Blackwell called a news conference last night to address the pending FOP no-confidence vote, saying he felt sure he would remain chief and highlighting the efforts he has made to build community engagement and fight crime. He also stressed that staffing for the department is at a six-year high. The FOP hasn’t had a meeting like the one planned for next week in a decade, and officers in Cincinnati have never cast a no-confidence vote over a chief.
• If you were looking forward to voting on major changes to our city's governing system, well, sorry 'bout that. There were few surprises out of City Hall yesterday as Cincinnati City Council and Mayor John Cranley blocked the most substantive of suggested amendments to the city’s charter from appearing before voters in November. A measure allowing Council to fire the city manager and another that would have enabled it to engage in executive session both failed to gather enough votes to make it onto the November ballot. Some on Council, including council members Yvette Simpson and Kevin Flynn, supported bringing those changes to voters.
But the executive session amendment failed to reach the six-vote threshold needed to overturn last week’s mayoral veto. Cranley says he vetoed the amendment because it would bring more secrecy to government by allowing Council to meet in private. Simpson argued that executive session, which is permissible under state law and is used by most municipal councils in the state, would actually allow elected representatives to play a bigger role in decisions the city administration makes. Simpson pointed out that some information circulating within City Hall related to economic development deals, court cases, security and other issues must be kept confidential.
However, since Council must conduct all its business in public, it can’t be made privy to that information until it’s time to vote on it. That means elected representatives only get to engage in the final stages of decision making and aren’t involved in cutting economic development deals, for instance, until the final deal is reached. Simpson slammed that dynamic, saying that it means city administration and the mayor are allowed to hold private meetings and hash out private deals without Council’s knowledge. But City Manager Harry Black said Council is able to exercise oversight over any part of the deal-making process and can challenge the confidentiality of any information possessed by the city administration. Cranley said having access to such information as mayor is one of “the privileges of the position” and pointed out that executive and legislative roles must necessarily differ in City Hall.
The executive session amendment garnered five votes from Council. Councilmen P.G. Sittenfeld, Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman voted against it. Councilman Chris Seelbach was absent from voting, but had previously indicated to media that he would not reprise his earlier “yes” vote on the amendment, making it unlikely the measure would overcome Cranley’s veto.
Cranley also railed against the provision allowing Council to fire the city manager, saying it would create an atmosphere where the city’s top executive would fear for his job “every week.” Cranley cited the dynamics of Council in the 1990s, before Council’s ability to fire the manager was revoked, to illustrate his point. However, some council members pushed back at his assertion. Sittenfeld, for example, said having nine council members overseeing the city manager seemed more democratic and more stable than having only the mayor do so.
Council did place two amendments on the November ballot. One would clean up archaic language in the city’s charter and also change the date of the city’s mayoral primary. The other would shift start dates for the mayor and council members from early December to early January.
OK. Look at me rambling on. Here are some quick hits for the rest of your news.
• The Cincinnati Zoo announced yesterday it will spend $12 million on an expansion of its gorilla exhibit, building an indoor greenhouse for the primates that will match the animals’ current outdoor area.
• Is Cincinnati one of the most unfriendly cities in the world?
Hey hey all. Here’s what’s happening in the city and beyond this morning.
The company making Cincinnati’s streetcars, CAF USA, will be adding extra shifts at its manufacturing facility in New York in order to avoid being any later on delivering the vehicles. CAF originally told the city that the cars would be delivered by the end of this month. But a few weeks ago, the company revealed that they might not be ready until December, stoking apprehension that the delay could cause the entire transit project’s start date to be pushed back. The streetcar is supposed to start operating, with passengers, this time next year. Between now and then, a good deal of testing will need to be done on the cars, both at the manufacturing facility and here in Cincinnati, where the cars will have to take log a number of test miles before they can take passengers. However, officials with the city and with CAF say the delay won’t cause any lag in the project’s launch. The company has given the city a progress update on the vehicles and has said the first of the five cars could be delivered as early as October.
• Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Ohio yesterday filed a lawsuit against the state over recently passed new laws governing abortion access. CityBeat has covered the ongoing battle extensively, and you can read the backstory here, here, and here. Shorter version: A provision tucked into Ohio’s budget and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in June would give the Ohio Department of Health 60 days to approve an abortion provider’s license renewal or variance request. After that period, the request would be automatically denied and a clinic would lose its ability to perform the procedure. In its federal suit, Planned Parenthood says that presents an unconstitutional barrier to abortion access. Cincinnati’s last remaining clinic, Planned Parenthood’s Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn, could be in jeopardy of closing due to that new rule. That would make Cincinnati the largest metro area in the country without direct access to an abortion clinic. The Mount Auburn clinic waited for more than a year to have its last variance request granted by ODH. After Planned Parenthood filed a previous lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Ohio laws that require clinics have hospital admitting privileges, but forbidding public hospitals from entering into such agreements, the department finally issued the clinic an exception to those rules. Now, the facility could be in danger of closing again thanks to the new restrictions Planned Parenthood is challenging.
• Mayor John Cranley’s proposed ballot initiative for city park upgrades is getting a legal challenge from one staunch opponent. Cincinnati attorney Don Mooney filed an objection to the initiative earlier this week, saying the wording of the ballot proposal is misleading and incomplete. Supporters of the initiative have already gained the needed signatures to place the proposal on the November ballot. Cranley’s proposal would boost property taxes to pay for upkeep to the city’s park as well as fund major changes to several, including Clifton’s Burnet Woods. The proposal is designed to raise about $5 million a year in property tax revenues. But that 75 percent of that money could be used on debt service for bonds the city would issue to raise tens of millions of dollars for the parks project. Therein lies the rub, or at least one of them: Mooney charges that the ballot initiative as written doesn’t make clear that it would allow the city, through the mayor and park board, to take on millions in debt. Mooney also criticizes the power given the mayor to make decisions about what to do with that money. Under the initiative’s current language, parks projects funded by the money would be proposed by the mayor and approved by the parks board without the approval of Cincinnati City Council. Mooney calls that a mayoral power grab.
• If you’re wondering what the long-promised new Kroger location in Corryville will look like, the grocery chain finally has some renderings for you to gander at. Kroger released some images of how the store should look when completed next year. At nearly 70,000 square feet, the location will nearly double the size of the current Kroger at the south end of Corryville’s Short Vine strip. Current plans flip the store’s orientation, putting its entrance facing Jefferson Street and the University of Cincinnati’s campus.
• Finally, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is a hip, with it guy. He knows what the kids like. They like Snapchat. They like bacon. They like GOP presidential primary candidates who are down with Snapchat and bacon. That’s why Kasich’s campaign pioneered a new kind of political ad today on the photo and video sharing app. The ad uses a filter on the app to render Kasich’s campaign logo as strips of bacon, which the app is running in early primary state New Hampshire from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. today. In his next move to win millennial voters, Kasich will post anonymously on Yik Yak with a special, super-secret guest verse on an A$AP Rocky song rapped entirely in Doge speak about his foreign policy platform. Such hip! Much vote!
Hey Cincy. Hope you’re winding down your work week. It’s T-minus two days 'til turkey time, which also happens to be my birthday this year. I’m hyped for both. Oh, and if you want to get your favorite reporter a b-day gift, I’ll take a pair of these in size 8.5 thx. Huh. Now you know my shoe size, which is kind of creepy.
But here’s something awesome: There will be tons of political fodder for you to argue awkwardly about around the dinner table with your family this Thanksgiving. Consider this news update your guide to all the best terrible conversations you’ll be having soon.
• You can start with something mild, like debating whether or not Mayor John Cranley should have gotten off the hook for his election-day outburst at a polling location in Avondale. OK, “outburst” is a little harsh. The Cran-man just got a bit over-enthusiastic about Issue 22, the parks tax proposal, and shouted out that people should vote yes on it a couple times. Who doesn’t like to see enthusiasm for the democratic process? But uh, campaigning and telling people how to vote in a polling place is pretty firmly against the rules, especially when you’re a political figure. Despite that, the Hamilton County Board of Elections yesterday announced that it will not be seeking any penalties against the mayor for his breach of the rules. Pollworker Mary Siegel argued that the BOE should start cracking down on such electioneering infractions in the future, because the rules are rarely enforced now.
• If the ensuing argument about that doesn’t heat things up while you’re waiting for the turkey to finish cooking, try talking with your conservative Uncle Jeff about the University of Cincinnati white student union that was set up on Facebook a few days ago. The group’s posts feature prognosticating on how “European Americans” face special challenges on campus and in society in general and other nonsensical claptrap designed to draw people into useless race-related Internet debates. Anyway, the page is almost certainly fake, set up in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to a plan hatched on a national white supremacist message board. The UC-themed page uses language almost identical to similar sites across the country, many of the likes on the page’s posts come from out of town Facebook accounts and the whole thing comes across as a reminder not to feed the trolls. So, uh, don’t feed the trolls. Meanwhile, there are more serious and terrifying anti-Black Lives Matter incidents happening of late.
• Just a couple days after Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, dropped a bombshell by revealing he’s decided not to run for reelection, three Cincinnati City Council members are saying they’re considering running for his seat. Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn have both expressed some interest, with Winburn saying he could switch from a planned run for county recorder to the commission race if the party wants him to. Murray has said she’ll take the Thanksgiving holiday to think it over before deciding, but is intrigued. Meanwhile, independent Christopher Smitherman has said he might run as a Republican for the seat. Whoever the Hamilton County GOP taps will face Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus of Clifton, who is leaving the state House due to term limits.
• The second Cincinnati streetcar arrives today and will soon be making test trips around the 3.6-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown. This argument pretty much scripts itself, so just say "streetcar" to your public transit-hating dad and watch the holiday magic unfold.
• Black leaders from across the state met yesterday at The Urban League of Greater Cincinnati headquarters in Avondale to discuss the state of black Ohio. The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, which includes local politicians State Sen. Cecil Thomas and State Rep. Alicia Reece, held the public meeting in part to discuss the wide disparities facing the black community here and across the state. Ohio ranks second-to-last in the nation in infant mortality rates, according to the caucus. Closer to home, the group singled out continued issues at the University of Cincinnati, which has been the site of serious racial dialogue around disparities in higher education. The group also discussed efforts toward police reform, which have been slow in coming even after several high-profile police shootings of unarmed black citizens here and a task force convened by Gov. John Kasich. You can read more about how activists are continuing to fight for those reforms in this week’s news feature.
• GOP presidential primary contender Donald Trump came to Ohio yesterday. He didn’t talk as much shit about Ohio Gov. John Kasich as he has in the past. Per usual, his speech was light on policy proposals and heavy on bombast. What else really needs to be said? His remarks to a crowd of 10,000 mostly focused on how the U.S. has become “soft and weak” (despite spending more on its military than all other countries combined) and about how he’s leading in all major polls (sadly, this claim is actually true). He also gave a shout out to waterboarding, the controversial torture technique once used by the U.S. to extract intelligence from terrorism suspects. Trump’s all for bringing it back. Another thing Trump likes, according to his hour-long remarks: lists. As in, lists of people who are Muslim, which Trump thinks should be compiled by the federal government. Thanksgiving family debate difficulty level: black diamond.
• Finally, Indiana Governor Mike Pence faces a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union over his refusal to take in Syrian refugees. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Exodus Refugee Immigration, the Indianapolis nonprofit that handles refugee resettlement for the state. Pence pressured that organization to turn away Syrian refugees earlier this month. The ACLU says in doing so, he violated both the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act. This would be a great topic to discuss with your cousin Tami, who has that Gadsen flag bumper sticker on her Hummer.
That’s it for me. Later!
Good morning, Cincinnati! Hope y'all are ready for a short work week followed by some binge eating!
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann is officially not running for re-election next year. Hartmann, who has served as commissioner for the last seven years, announced his decision in an email Saturday. He stated his main motivation was to allow new leadership in the position in what he calls "a self-imposed term limit." Hartmann's decision came as a surprise, as the conservative Republican was already raising money to run against State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Clifton), who chose to run for commissioner upon hitting a real term limit after serving in the state House for eight years. Hartmann told the Enquirer he had been thinking about not running for the past year. Republicans have yet to present another candidate for the position.
• Another federal housing project might be coming to Cincinnati that would give government housing agencies flexibility to test local projects using federal dollars. The arrival of the 19-year-old federal program Moving to Work is pending the U.S. Senate's approval of appropriations bill that would extend the program to 39 different agencies. The program targets programs that reduce the costs of other programs and incentivize families to prepare for work. Some local activists and experts aren't so thrilled with program's possible arrival. Critics of the program say that the local agencies' programs that receive the flexible federal dollars aren't subjected to enough evaluations to prove their effectiveness, therefore letting ineffective, and even damaging programs, slide by.
• A new program looking to get guns off the streets of Cincinnati will launch its second round today. The program, run by the nonprofit Street Rescue, will set up in Brown Chapel AME Church on Alms Place from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. allowing community members to trade their unwanted guns for $50 and $100 grocery gift cards, no questions asked. The program was developed by local residents who aim to get illegal guns off the street following the city's recent spike in violent crime. They collected seven guns during their first drive in October.
• Cincinnati City Councilman and Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld is still in the race, much to the dismay of political experts. Sittenfeld's campaign against Republican Rob Portman has been largely overshadowed since former Democratic Ohio governor Ted Strickland jumped in the race. The Ohio Democratic Party gave Strickland its endorsement last April. But Sittenfeld held on and has launched recent attacks against both candidates for issues like gun control. Strickland is much better known around the state than Sittenfeld, who isn't recognized much outside of Cincinnati.
• Finally, Brussels is lockdown as authorities sweep the city for terrorism suspects. Authorities have even requested residents refrain from posting messages that expose the whereabouts of police on social media. So rather than give up social media for the extent of the operations, Belgians have banded together by posting pictures of cats, the Internet's favorite animal. Cat memes have popped up all over Belgian's social media accounts poking fun of the tense operation.
Good morning all. Hope you’re hyped for the weekend. I’m going to see Jens Lekman at the Woodward tonight, so I totally am. Music isn’t my beat and you should probably just read our article on the show after we talk about news. But for now, let’s get to it.
The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT rights organization, has established today as the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day designed to draw attention to the often-forgotten violence faced by transgender people in America. At least 98 hate crimes against people based on their gender identity were reported in 2014, according to FBI hate crimes statistics. This year, trans people have been victims of nearly two dozen murders. Trans people in Cincinnati are no exception and face harsh violence, even murder.
• Why did former Cincinnati State President O’dell Owens leave so suddenly back in September? Turns out the answer is partly about money and partly about interpersonal politics, as so many answers are. Owens, who was once Hamilton County coroner and now serves as the director of the Cincinnati Health Department, was being asked to undertake 10 in-person fundraising meetings a week on behalf of the college. That fundraising schedule is unusual, education experts say. Other duties generally given to a college president were in the process of being assigned to a newly hired chief operating officer.
Despite exceeding his fundraising goals — Owens says he raised $1.73 million last year, hundreds of thousands of dollars more than he was expected to raise — and gaining praise from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Owens says he continued to receive pushback from some of the college’s board members. The tension culminated in an angry phone call from board chair Cathy Crain. Owens says Crain raised her voice to him in a call about a statement he made to the Cincinnati Enquirer on a possible tax levy for the school. After that incident, he began to consider leaving Cincinnati State. More money, more problems, or something.
• So, Cincinnati is definitely living in the age of re-urbanization, with more folks flocking back to the city. But while the general stereotype is that young professionals drive the demand for urban living spaces, it looks like baby boomers hitting retirement age are pushing a condo boom in Cincinnati as well. Older folks are interested in living in the city after their kids (finally) move out and they don’t need quite so much space, some developers say. Increased demand from empty nesters has informed new condo projects in places like Hyde Park. Side note: When I first saw the headline of that WCPO article, I read it as “condor demand picks up” and thought owning a bird of prey was some new hipster, Royal Tenenbaums-throwback thing I missed.
• As a journalist I’m supposed to be cold and dead inside without preference or favoritism for anything. I generally do OK with that, but if I have two weak spots, they are bicycles and beer. So I might not be qualified to report on this next thing objectively, but here goes: Cincinnati’s Fifty West Brewing Co. is expanding and, in the process, folding in the Oakley Cycles shop, a high-end bicycle retailer that will move from Observatory Avenue to Fifty West’s campus in Columbia Township. Fifty West and Oakley Cycles representatives both say they’re looking to provide a new, community-oriented experience for visitors while taking advantage of the Fifty West facility’s proximity to local bike trails. Fifty West will also be expanding capacity to brew four times as much beer as it does now. This is all pretty great.
• What else is happening? GOP presidential primary contender and perennially red-faced and slightly sweaty verbal combatant Donald Trump has set his sights on equally red-faced and sweaty fellow Republican candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The two have been having a war of words via Twitter, which… well, that’s where we’re at as a country these days and I’m really just too depressed to continue typing about this. Check it out if you want.
Kasich has also drawn some attention for his suggestion that the United States create a federal government agency charged with spreading Judeo-Christian values across the globe. That sounds like a great plan that has absolutely zero constitutional or moral problems, right? Once again, I’m just going to let you read the story.
• Finally, a small group of Syrian refugees resettled in Kentucky this week despite political furor over such resettlements after the attacks on Paris last week by ISIS. Most of the eight attackers were French or Belgian, but at least one Syrian passport was found at the scene of one of the attacks, fueling apprehensions that some of the four million refugees fleeing Syria are allied with ISIS, the militant Islamic group that has claimed control of large parts of Iraq and Syria.
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would add extra levels of scrutiny to Iraqi and Syrian refugees before they can resettle in the United States on top of the U.S. State Department’s already months- or years-long vetting process. Those new requirements would effectively halt refugee resettlement of those groups in the U.S. The bill faces stiff opposition in the Senate, and President Barack Obama has vowed to veto it should it pass there. The House’s version of the bill passed with a veto-proof two-thirds majority. The Senate would need to pass it with a similar margin to override Obama’s veto ability.
If you’re interested in learning more about the refugee resettlement process from the perspective of an Iraqi family that settled in Cincinnati, check out our cover story earlier this year on refugees here.
I’m out. Enjoy your weekend!
Good morning all. Here’s the news today.
You might’ve missed it entirely, but GOP presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was in Cincinnati last night. He was speaking at a private event at Music Hall and didn’t really hit the town much or give public stump speeches. But he did chat with press outside the Cincinnatian Hotel downtown for a moment after his speech, where he told reporters that the answer to struggles with poverty in cities like ours is less government regulation. Carson said regulations on businesses and the finance industry keep prices high and interest rates low, meaning the poor pay more for everyday goods and don’t get returns on interest collected from things like savings accounts.
“It doesn’t hurt rich people when they go into a store and a bar of soap costs 10 cents more. It hurts poor people,” he said. Carson also talked about why he opposes Syrian refugees coming into the United States and concerns about his lack of foreign policy knowledge, which have been floated by his own advisers recently. Carson scoffed at the suggestion that his lack of world knowledge makes him unprepared to be president, saying he’s visited 57 countries and that he has “common sense and a brain.”
Hey Ben. I’ve been to Canada a few times and also possess a human brain of sorts. Make me an ambassador to our neighbors up north after you get elected, eh? Carson is polling second in Ohio in the GOP presidential primary race behind Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is polling third in his own dang state. Ohio's primary is in March.
• Speaking of the sad plight of Syrian refugees, a group of about 15 protesters gathered outside Cincinnati City Hall to protest statements made by Mayor John Cranley earlier this week asking the federal government to pause resettlement efforts for those refugees in the U.S. Cranley has since apologized for upsetting people with that statement, but has also defended his point — that federal officials should place a moratorium on Syrian refugee resettlement in Cincinnati and elsewhere in the country until they can guarantee safety for citizens. Cranley, like Ohio Gov. John Kasich and a number of other mostly Republican governors, is concerned that terrorists from ISIS could slip into refugee populations making their way into the United States.
• A group of about 30 students representing University of Cincinnati’s activist group the Irate8 held a silent protest yesterday on UC’s campus to advocate for racial equity there. The demonstration came in the wake of UC’s response to the group’s list of 10 demands. The Irate8 came together after the July 19 shooting of unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose by UC police officer Ray Tensing. Tensing is currently awaiting trial on murder charges. The Irate8 has issued a list of 10 demands and timelines for UC administrators. That list includes substantive reforms to UC’s policing practices, including removal of officers at the scene of the DuBose shooting from active patrols, and efforts to double UC’s enrollment of black students. Currently, black students make up 8 percent of UC’s student body, even though Cincinnati as a city is 45 percent black. The university responded earlier this week to that list of demands, but activists say the response is too general and doesn’t set forth concrete action steps or deadlines.
• The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Metropolitan Sewer District made improper payments of taxpayer money to outside contractors. Those contracts, handled by the city, are worth up to $35 million a year. That’s caused Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel and other county officials to question whether the city is running the MSD properly. Cincinnati operates the MSD, but it’s owned by the county. Memos from City Manager Harry Black to Cincinnati City Council detail what Black believed to be inefficiencies in the contracting process, including jobs that might have been awarded without proper competitive bidding. However, those memos don’t say anything about legal improprieties. It’s unclear which specific contracts the FBI is investigating. The city and county’s sewer district has faced a lot of scrutiny in recent years, mostly thanks to a $3.2 billion, federal court-ordered restructuring project MSD is currently undertaking.
• Two Cincinnati-based state representatives are working on an effort to increase accountability for the state’s law enforcement officers in the wake of controversy around police-involved shootings in this city and around the country. State Reps. Alicia Reece, a Democrat, and Jonathan Dever, a Republican, are pushing a new bill that would create a written, publicly available statewide standard for investigating police-involved shootings across Ohio. That standard would require a report from investigators no more than 30 days after a police shooting happens, and if no indictment is handed down for the officer, that report would be immediately made public. The bill is one of many expected to come from a task force convened by Gov. John Kasich earlier this year in response to controversial police shootings throughout the state. Lawmakers say they hope to have preliminary hearings on the bill before the end of the year.
• Finally, we all make mistakes. Some of us lock ourselves out of the house without our keys and wallet because we’re so excited to get a bagel and some coffee. (Yes, I did that this morning.) But some among us take bigger risks, so the mistake possibilities are much higher and more interesting. The group pushing ballot initiative Issue 3, for instance, created a creepy, weed-headed pitchman for their multi-million-dollar effort. Ian James, one of the heads of marijuana legalization effort ResponsibleOhio, admitted that Buddie, the caped crusader of weed legalization and ResponsibleOhio’s mascot, was probably not a great idea. Seriously. Dude’s head was a giant, dank bud. I had nightmares. James also said the idea of limiting growth of marijuana to 10 grow sites owned by ResponsibleOhio investors in the group’s ballot proposal was also a mistake. In the letter, James promised that pro-pot organizers with the group would be back with an improved ballot initiative next year to again try and get weed legalized in Ohio.
That’s it for me. I have to go get coffee and a bagel now or I’m probably going to pass out.
Morning all. Here’s the news today.
Mayor John Cranley has said he “feels horrible” about any unintended harm he may have caused in calling for a moratorium on Syrian refugees coming to Cincinnati, but is standing by the substance of his comments. Cranley also told The Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday that he merely meant to suggest a “pause” on refugee resettlement here until safety concerns brought up by attacks in Lebanon, Egypt and France could be addressed. Cranley has joined Ohio Gov. John Kasich and other, mostly conservative, politicians across the country in calling for an at-least-temporary halt to Syrian refugee resettlement in the wake of those attacks. The U.S. has an extensive vetting process for refugees that can take anywhere from 18 months to multiple years, as CityBeat explored in this cover story about an Iraqi refugee family earlier this year. Meanwhile, a local Muslim group today decried statements by Cranley and Kasich, calling them “disturbing,” knee-jerk reactions that punish terror victims instead of preventing terrorism.
• Bus drivers for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority have taken another step closer to striking over a new bus proposal. A group of drivers yesterday attended a SORTA board meeting to protest higher health insurance payments as well as a plan that calls for smaller Metro buses operated by lower-paid drivers. Drivers with the Amalgamated Transit Union say decisions about that plan are being made without current SORTA drivers’ input. Those drivers say they should operate the smaller buses, instead of lower-paid drivers who can operate the smaller buses without a commercial driver’s license. Current Metro drivers top out at about $25 an hour; drivers of the smaller buses would start at $15 and top out just under $20 an hour. ATU members will vote on whether to strike over the new proposal at their Dec. 3 meeting. There are no bargaining meetings between the ATU and SORTA scheduled before that date.
• While that public transportation fight rages, some transit advocates will be partying tonight to celebrate the city’s first streetcar in 65 years. Streetcar advocates with All Aboard Ohio are throwing a free public party at Over-the-Rhine’s The Transept, a newly renovated church along the streetcar route, tonight starting at 6 p.m. The group has been one of the biggest voices in boosting the 3.6-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown as well as other rail projects in Cincinnati. The event will feature free appetizers and a cash bar.
• Have you ever felt like this state needs more guns in daycare centers? If so, you're in luck, because that could become a reality with a new bill the Ohio House of Representatives just passed. The bill would allow concealed carry permit holders to have their guns in the aforementioned child care facilities, on college campuses and on private aircraft. Because nothing is more American than shooting a bald eagle out of the sky from the cockpit of your Leer Jet. The bill passed the house 63-25. Now it’s off to the Senate.
• As we’ve talked about before, GOP presidential primary hopeful and Ohio Gov. John Kasich has pinned his campaign’s continued viability on his performance in early primary state New Hampshire. Annnnnd… it’s not looking so great there right now, according to a poll conducted by a National Public Radio affiliate. In September, Kasich was polling at 45 percent favorability among GOP voters in the state. These days, however, just 33 percent of GOPers view him favorably. Meanwhile, his unfavorable percentage has gone up to 39 percent in the most recent Nov. 15 poll, a huge swell from the 21 percent who found him unfavorable in the September round of polling. He has stayed steady with voters who identify him as their first preference, however. In September, 7 percent of New Hampshire GOP voters said he was their first choice. The most recent poll found that number unchanged. Kasich lost a couple points with undecided voters in that same time period, however.
* Finally, GOP presidential frontrunner and manly mane mentor Donald Trump will stump in Columbus Monday. Grab your tickets now and maybe find a good book to read.
I’m out. Twitter. Email. You know how to reach me.
Following attacks in Egypt, Beirut and Paris that killed hundreds, the United States should place a moratorium on Syrian refugees, Mayor John Cranley said in a Nov. 16 statement.
“I understand the dire circumstances Syrian refugees face because I personally visited a refugee camp in Jordan last summer,” Cranley said in that statement. “However, the federal government should halt its actions until the American people can be assured that exhaustive vetting has occurred.”
Cranley’s statement comes just two weeks after the roll-out of a program he says is designed to make Cincinnati the most welcoming city in the country for immigrants. At least one Syrian refugee family of nine has already settled in Cincinnati. But recent terrorist attacks have radically shifted the conversation around refugees in the U.S.
Bombings and shootings carried out by followers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Beirut and Egypt last week claimed hundreds of lives, and a subsequent attack in Paris killing 129 on Nov. 13 garnered new levels of attention for the terrorist group. Those attacks have led some politicians, including Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, to oppose accepting Syrians into the country.
“I wouldn’t let them in unless we have a positive affirmation that they don’t have evil intent or that they’re associated with any group that would endanger the country,” Kasich said at a GOP presidential candidate summit in Florida the day after the Paris attacks. “We’re not bringing ISIS into this country.”
Kasich’s office has said the governor is looking into ways to refuse refugees coming to Ohio. Other Republican governors, including presidential primary contender Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, have also protested refugees arriving in their states. These protests are largely symbolic, however. Acceptance of refugees is a federal matter; governors and mayors have no formal say in resettlement policies.
At least eight people carried out the Paris attacks. Most were French, according to investigators, but at least two were from Syria.
After stepping into the chaos of an ongoing civil war in Syria initially sparked by dictator Bashar-al Assad, ISIS gained control of a swath of Syria and Iraq populated by about 8 million people. Last year, the group claimed it has caliphate status — that is, an Islamic state charged with upholding Islamic law. The group has murdered thousands as it seeks to consolidate power over portions of Syria and Iraq, driving an estimated 4 million Syrians out of the country as refugees.
Most of those refugees have taken shelter in nearby European states such as France and Germany. However, the United States has agreed to take on 10,000 of the fleeing Syrians.
Not all politicians have called for rejection of the refugees. Cincinnati City Council Democrats Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson decried Cranley’s move, calling for the city to welcome Syrians. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley asked that the Department of Homeland Security ensure the safety of U.S. citizens, but said the city would welcome immigrants.
“Should the decision be made to place refugees from any country in the city of Dayton, we will continue to be a leader in the welcoming movement and will champion inclusive communities that enable all residents to thrive," Whaley said in a Nov. 16 statement.
Good morning! Here are your morning headlines.
Mayor John Cranley yesterday joined a growing number of politicians across the U.S., including Ohio Governor John Kasich, in calling for the federal government to stop admitting Syrian refugees into the U.S. The push comes in the aftermath of recent terrorist attacks in Egypt, Lebanon and Paris, where one dead attacker was found with a Syrian passport. The U.S. pledged to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees in September amid the growing crisis overseas, which is just a tiny percentage of the more than 3 million Syrians have fled the country under the strain of the country's ongoing civil war. Cranley's announcement spurred immediate backlash from council members Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson, who released a joint statement saying refugees should be welcomed into the community and not vilified. Refugees are processed at the federal level and go through extensive criminal background and health checks before they are admitted into the U.S. The average waiting period is between 18 and 24 months. Just last month, Cranley announced a plan to make Cincinnati more immigrant-friendly, stating that immigrants can help boost the local economy and create jobs.
• Things aren't looking good for Planned Parenthood at the Ohio State House. The GOP-majority legislature looks ready to vote to strip the health organization of $1.3 million dollars in state funding. The push against Planned Parenthood across the U.S. comes from unproven claims from anti-abortion groups that the Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue for profit. But the money that the state will likely vote to strip from Planned Parenthood doesn't go to abortion services, but to programs that do things like fund tests for sexually transmitted infections and find prenatal care for mothers. The decision will come just days after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to look at Texas laws, which have required that the state's abortion clinics adhere to new strict requirements like having admitting privileges to local hospitals. Ohio legislature has also passed tighter restrictions on abortion clinics in the state modeled after laws in Texas' law forcing nearly half of the state's clinics to close.
• The park levy may have lost on the ballot, but controversy around it lives on. The City of Cincinnati denied a taxpayer's lawsuit against the city's Parks Board because of private endowment money it spent on a pro-levy website. The lawsuit was filed by State Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. (R-Mt. Lookout), who stated that the Parks Board violated the city charter when Director Willie Carden authorized $2,575 from the Parks Foundation last June to be spent on a website for the levy. The city charter states that no funds from the city can be used towards advocating for or against a candidate or proposal. The city denied the lawsuit on the grounds that all the money has been returned to the Cincinnati Parks Foundation.
• Metro has a plan to bring bus service to some Cincinnati neighborhoods by using smaller buses, but that plan involves paying drivers of those buses less. That's ignited talks of a strike among SORTA's union. Metro's proposal comes shortly after the release of a University of Cincinnati Economics Center study that found that Metro's services were insufficient to connect commuters to 75,000 Cincinnati jobs. The proposed buses will go down routes where it services are needed, but the ridership is low. The mini-bus proposal is opposed by the union as it would permit the hiring of drivers without commercial licenses for lower wages. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority has proposed up to 31 percent of its route be served by mini-buses with a $15.47 an hour starting wage.
Hey Cincy. Good morning. Hope your weekend was chill. I got to eat some rad kimchi and embarrass myself via karaoke at a Korean restaurant. Fun times. Anyway. Here’s what’s going on around town and beyond today.
Things are getting hot around the new I-71 interchange being constructed in Walnut Hills and Avondale, with property and cash changing hands rapidly as the urban core’s first highway on- and off-ramp since the 1970s nears its spring 2016 completion date. Developer and controversial Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board member Shree Kulkarmi has cashed in on property around the forthcoming highway interchange, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier. Two companies controlled by Kulkarmi, Uptown Partners LLC and Beecher Investments LLC, sold 16 properties around the new interchange to another limited liability corporation listed at the same address as Neyer Properties, Inc., one of the city’s largest property developers. In doing so, Kulkarmi doubled his money. Property records show the developer paid about $636,000 for the properties; they sold for more than $1.3 million. Since 2013, Kulkarmi has spent $865,000 purchasing 22 properties around the interchange. Other developers have also been rushing for properties in the area. Nonprofit development corporation Uptown Consortium Inc. has spent nearly $12 million on 100 properties in the area, the first step in constructing what it envisions as an “innovation corridor” along Reading Road.
• Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing still doesn’t have a trial date related to murder charges he faces for the July 19 shooting of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose. Tensing had a pretrial hearing this morning, but a county judge said the discovery, or evidence-gathering, phase of prosecution is still ongoing, delaying the actual trial. His next pretrial hearing will be Dec. 15.
• Oops. The medical records of more than 1,000 UC Health patients were accidentally emailed to an unauthorized email address nine times since August 2014, the health provider says. The compromised information includes patient names, medical record numbers and diagnosis records. UC Health has said it has fixed the problem, which it has attributed to an email glitch.
• Before he peaced out on his ultra-powerful perch as speaker of the House of Representatives last month, John Boehner had been in office longer than I’ve been alive. So what’s a former powerbroker once only a couple heartbeats away from the presidency to do in his retirement? Golf? A few extra rounds in the tanning bed? A few glasses of red wine followed by a good cry? Probably all of the above for Boehner, but also, some soul-searching about what state he should buy a car in, the fact he hasn’t driven in nine years and figuring out how he’s going to get by with “hardly any” staff members to help him out. Oh, and also stacking tons of cash making speeches about all that stuff and about how nothing was ever good enough for those radical Republicans he had to deal with in the House. Where do I sign up for that retirement package?
• Finally, we’ve all heard about the attacks that rocked Paris Friday night, killing more than 100 and wounding hundreds more. For better or worse (definitely worse), expect that tragedy to be a huge factor in the coming 2016 elections, especially in the immediate aftermath as candidates on the Republican and Democratic side alike wrangle with each other over their party’s nomination. The events in Paris cast a long shadow over Saturday’s Democratic primary debate, for instance, tilting the conversation heavily toward foreign policy and U.S. military intervention. That, some pundits argue, gave Dem frontrunner and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton a big debate boost over her upstart challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist running mostly on a domestic policy platform promising to tackle income inequality.
Meanwhile, renewed threats from the Islamic State, which has taken credit for the Paris attacks, promise similar terror in the U.S., specifically in Washington, D.C. That’s set of a further fervor on the right in regard to U.S. military strength and the need to close the country’s borders to immigrants and refugees. The fear induced by the attacks gives Republican candidate Donald Trump an especially strong hand, as draconian measures sealing off the nation’s borders have been one of the few concrete policy stands the real estate magnate has taken thus far in his campaign.
It’s Friday. It’s early. I haven’t had coffee yet. For all those reasons, I’m going to hit you with a briefer version of the morning news today. Think of it as fewer words between you and your weekend. You’re welcome.
So, did Mayor John Cranley violate election rules by literally giving a shout out to his park tax plan in a polling place on election day? That’s what a complaint filed yesterday by poll worker Mary Siegel alleges. Siegel says Cranley shouted “vote yes on Issue 22” inside the Urban League building in Avondale as voters cast ballots. That violates Ohio law, which stipulates campaigning must be done outside a 100 foot perimeter of polling places. Cranley has acknowledged that he made a mistake by discussing Issue 22 while he was in the polling place “for a few minutes.” Now it’s up to the four-member, bipartisan Hamilton County Board of Elections to decide whether to hold hearings to further investigate the incident. Board member and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke says these infractions happen all the time, and that the mayor’s apology should be sufficient. Hamilton County GOP chair and BOE member Alex Triantafilou has called the allegations “disturbing,” however, and said he’d like to hear more from the mayor.
• Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black is set to announce news about the city’s search for a new police chief today at 10:30 a.m. at City Hall. It’s unclear exactly what the news will be, but a notice from the manager’s office mentions the “next phase” of the hiring process, perhaps meaning candidates have been identified for the job. The top cop spot is open after Black dismissed former CPD chief Jeffrey Blackwell in September after months of friction between Blackwell and city administration. Blackwell’s supporters say his firing was political — the former chief was brought on by Cranley predecessor Mark Mallory — but the administration says many in the department had trouble working with the former chief because he was disconnected from officers and could be intimidating to other staff members. Interim Chief Elliot Isaac replaced Blackwell. We'll update this post after the news conference later this morning.
UPDATE: City Manager Harry Black has announced Interim Chief Eliot Isaac as the only candidate for Cincinnati Police Chief. Black said the next step in the process will require Issac to go through a series of private panels starting Monday that will include members of the community, Cincinnati Police Department, clergy, business community and sentinels. Isaac has worked for the CPD for 26 years and has served as Interim Chief since September.
• Let's be real: Black Friday is brutal and depressing. But some retailers are stepping up to offer an alternative, including a local spot. Environmentally minded general store Park + Vine, on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, has announced that it will be closed on Black Friday and will instead partner with local environmental group Imago to offer a six-mile urban hike from its store into Clifton. Part of the proceeds from that hike — which includes lunch from Park + Vine and other goodies — will go to OTR’s Holidays in the Bag, which supports local nonprofits. This year’s beneficiary is Future Leaders OTR, an entrepreneurship program run by OTR startup resource hub Mortar for low-income folks looking to start their own businesses. Park + Vine founder Danny Korman says he’s modeling his opt-out of the year’s biggest shopping day on outdoor equipment retailer REI’s recent pledge to close all of its stores on Black Friday this year. REI will give all employees a paid day off as a way to encourage folks to go out and enjoy nature.
Here are some short state news thangs:
• One of the Ohio Democratic Party’s top officials has officially switched her endorsement in the party’s presidential primary from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders. Former secretary of state candidate Nina Turner announced yesterday she’s backing Sanders in his bid for the big office next year. That’s something of a blow for Clinton’s juggernaut campaign: Ohio is a must-win state in next year’s presidential contest, and Turner has been one of Clinton’s biggest boosters here. Turner says she’s interested in Sanders’ strong commitment to voting rights and income and wage equity, and will play an active role in his campaign.
• Another day, another report commissioned by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office claiming the Cleveland police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice was reasonable. This time, the report comes from a retired police officer in Florida named W. Ken Katsaris, who said that Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann had “no choice” but to shoot Rice on the playground where he had been reported playing with a gun that a caller said “was probably fake.” A dispatcher didn’t relay that last part, though, and video footage shows the cruiser Loehmann was riding in speed up within feet of Rice. Loehmann then jumps out and shoots Rice almost immediately.
Advocates for Rice’s family criticized the release of Katsaris’ report by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty, who has released two other sympathetic reports written by former law enforcement officials calling the shooting justified. A grand jury is currently hearing evidence from McGinty’s office about the case to decide whether Loehmann should be charged in the shooting. Report author Katsaris also testified for the prosecutor’s office during a trial over the controversial shooting death of two unarmed black motorists in 2013. One-hundred-thirty-seven rounds were fired during that confrontation, which came after the two led police on a high-speed chase. The officer on trial during that case, Michael Brelo, was acquitted.
• Finally, Gov. John Kasich, one of the about 10,000 GOP candidates for the party’s presidential nomination, has had a rough stretch of late. He was booed at the last Republican debate. His low poll numbers aren't budging. And yesterday, he got heckled in a room full of senior citizens in New Hampshire for talking about defunding Planned Parenthood. To be fair, though, it was a mixed bag in terms of partisan issues. He also got pushback from some audience members when he discussed a modest minimum wage increase in Ohio. Yeesh. Tough crowd.
Hey everyone! Here are your morning headlines.
Residents of an Avondale apartment complex are demanding their landlords pay up after the collapse of the apartment's roof last Friday. Approximately 70 residents of the Burton Apartments have been living in a Days Inn since last week, and with the help of Legal Aid Society and the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition are asking their landlords PF Holdings and the Puretz family to fix the apartment complex and, in the meantime, continue to provide temporary assistance. So far the owners, who are based out of New Jersey, have said they'll pay for just a week at the Days Inn, leaving the residents, which include 17 children, worried that they'll being kicked out of the hotel come this Friday. PF Holding and the Puretz family own other subsidized housing complexes in Walnut Hills and Avondale and are currently under litigation by the city for the poorly maintenance of those properties. One resident of the Burton Apartments told the Enquirer the complex was in such bad shape the week before the roof collapsed, they were using umbrellas in the hallways when it was raining. For now, residents are hoping to retrieve some of their possessions when the building is inspected tomorrow at noon by the city.
Former restaurateur Liz Rogers is scheduled to be in court tomorrow. Rogers faces charges for impersonating a Cleveland police officer last March when workers arrived to repossess her car. She faces a maximum of 30 days in jail and $250 fine. Rogers was the owner of Mahogany's, a failed restaurant at the Banks. Last March, she was ordered to pay back $100,000, one-third of the loan that the city gave her in an effort to bring more minority-owned businesses to the area, and made the first payment at the beginning of this month.
This time last year I couldn't stroll through Over-the-Rhine while satisfying a craving for macarons. Oh, how times have changed! The last 12 months OTR has seen 41 new, independent businesses open, more than double from the year before, bringing to the area new, typically pricier, beer halls, night clubs and fancy taco bars. On Tuesday the Chamber of Commence kicked off the seventh annual Shop Local celebration to bring Christmas shoppers to the area so they will no longer worry about where to find the best mini-cupcakes.
A bill proposed by Rep. Barbara Sears (R-Monclova Township) would cut the amount of time Ohio's unemployed receive benefits in half. Sears' bill would knock the current number of weeks of unemployment from 26 down to somewhere between 12 and 20. Her plan comes as an attempt to pay off some of the debt Ohio has to the federal government. When the recession struck, Ohio had to borrow $2 billion from the feds and is still in the red for $774.8 million, which Sears says could come from cutting the unemployment benefits as unemployment is low in the state now, but opponents to the bill say that it unfairly goes after just one group of people and adds more hurdles for already hard-to-obtain benefits.
A Utah judge has removed a foster child from a lesbian couple's home, citing he's found evidence that claims the 1-year-old girl would be better off with heterosexual parents. Beckie Peirce and April Hoagland were married last summer and are already the parents of two children and said they were planning on adopting the girl when a judge halted the process. The couple said they asked the Judge Scott Johansen for his evidence, but he has not produced it. Peirce believe the move was based on his religious beliefs, which are not known, but the Washington Post reports he is a graduate of Brigham Young University, which is operated by the Mormon Church. The church has recently voted to exclude kids of same-sex couples until they are adults.
That's all for today! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any happenings in the city.