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by Natalie Krebs 04.04.2016 51 days ago
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Last weekend, during an interview on ABC, Kasich defended the many restrictions on abortion he's signed into law as Ohio governor. His comments come in the wake of the massive pushback Trump received for telling MSNBC that women seeking abortions should be punished if abortion is outlawed. Kasich said that lawmakers must be careful about passing abortion restrictions that don't cause a constitutional conflict and called for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade in an attempt to appeal to social conservatives. Well, pro-choice critics say Kasich actually doesn't care about "constitutional conflicts" as the 16 restrictions on abortion providers Kasich has signed into law as governor have caused half of the state's clinics to close.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.01.2016 54 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Public meeting on Music Hall changes coming; Deters refuses to release body cam footage in I-75 shooting; standing up for Kasich's pizza technique

Hey, hey all. It’s Friday. The weather’s rad. One of my favorite musicians is playing in Cincy tonight. So let’s get this news thing out of the way real quick and head toward the weekend ASAP, shall we?

You’ll be seeing a lot more of the space bus… err, Cincinnati streetcar soon. Four of the five cars are in town already, and the city plans to start running them two at a time along the transit project’s 3.6-mile route in order to rack up the required mileage necessary to meet Federal Transportation Administration testing requirements. The fifth car is due at the end of April, and officials believe they’ll be able run simulated service — all five cars running their daily routes without passengers — by August, with actual service beginning in September.

 • Renovations to Music Hall have been a long time coming, but now that they’re happening, are they unfolding in the best way? Some folks have reservations about the plans for the Cincinnati landmark, including a planned removal of 1,000 seats and acoustical adjustments in the hall’s Springer Auditorium. The city owns the hall, and much of the funding for the renovations has come from public sources. But there have been questions about the transparency and public input into the planning process for the rehab work. Officials with 3CDC, which is overseeing that work, say public input has been taken into account throughout the process. The kerfuffle comes ahead of the first major public hearing on the renovation plans before the city’s Historic Conservation Board, which was slated to take place April 4. However, that’s opening day, something of a major holiday in the city, and the city has announced it will move the meeting to a less busy date.

• Perhaps you heard about the bizarre incident on I-75 the other day in which a suspect for a murder in Maryland was shot and injured by police along a stretch of the highway going through Evendale. That incident has sparked a fight over public records between local media and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters. Javier Pablo Aleman was walking along the median of the highway when he was approached by Glendale police officer Joshua Hilling, who searched Aleman’s belongings and found a large knife. A scuffle ensued between the two, during which Aleman was shot. Deters is refusing to release video footage of the incident taken by the officer’s body camera, saying an investigation is ongoing into the incident. However, an attorney for the Cincinnati Enquirer argues that the footage is public record and must be released immediately. We’ll keep you posted on this one.

• Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has ordered across-the-board cuts for the state’s eight public universities and its community college system. Bevin has ordered an immediate 4.5-percent cut for the schools as part of his plan to cut the state’s budget. Those cuts will come out of quarterly transfers from the state to the schools scheduled to take place today. The budget reductions will then double to 9 percent in the upcoming 2016-2018 budget. The Kentucky House of Representatives has resisted those cuts, while the state’s Senate has backed Bevin in the education funding reductions. The budget fight comes as the state looks for ways to shore up flagging funding for pension obligations.

• Finally, regular CityBeat readers know we’ve been pretty skeptical of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and his GOP presidential primary campaign. But come on. There’s absolutely no wrong way to eat pizza.

The Big Queso is catching some heat for eating his 'za with a fork on the campaign trail in New York. Now, the Empire State, home of the pizza slice as big as your head that you have to fold like a beach blanket to eat, is the last place in the world you want to do that. But the man is eating pizza, perhaps the most relatable act he’s ever committed. I would hope that we, as Americans, could put aside our ideological differences and recognize this. Even New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, not exactly Kasich’s ideological brother, has come to our hapless governor’s aid, tweeting a photo of himself also eating pizza with a fork. Did Kasich just start an anti-fork-shaming movement? Primary results will tell.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.31.2016 55 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

County, feds settle on JFS; CAC architect Hadid dies; Kasich says repealing Obamacare "a stupid promise"

Good morning all. It’s almost Friday! Which means it’s almost Monday, also known as Reds opening day, also known as the most important day in Cincinnati. I’m hyped. Anyway. Here’s your news today.

University of Cincinnati’s top legal counsel is leaving her post, citing personal reasons. As the school’s top lawyer, UC’s Vice President for Legal Affairs Kenya Faulkner has overseen a tough legal year for the university, during which UC settled with the family of Samuel DuBose, who was shot and killed by UC police officer Ray Tensing, and settled a long-running and high-profile dispute with nonprofit Requiem Project around plans to renovate Over-the-Rhine’s Emery Theater.  UC President Santa Ono praised Faulkner, who has been at the job for three years. The school’s now-outgoing top lawyer will continue to work with UC on efforts to diversify the university’s law school. UC’s deputy general counsel Karen Kovach will fill Faulkner’s role on an interim basis.

• Speaking of settling lawsuits, Hamilton County and the federal government have come to terms on a 10-year fight over accounting problems at the county’s Job and Family Services agency. The agreement will cost county taxpayers $22.5 million, but there’s actually some good news in that. An audit in 2006 by Ohio Job and Family Services officials estimated the county could be on the hook for $224 million due to a number of accounting problems. That was whittled down to $60 million during the proceeding court battle, and the final settlement knocks another two-thirds off that number. Meanwhile, the county has been stashing funds away to pay the expected settlement and now has $100 million to do so. That leaves more than $70 million in extra money, some of which could go to expanded services for children in Hamilton County.

• Hey, remember last year when the state passed that legislation allowing cities to designate open-container entertainment districts, and everyone here got all excited because they were going to make one for The Banks? What happened with that? The city’s still… thinking... about... it. While open container allowances are made on a temporary basis in the area for big events, you’re still not allowed to take your can of beer outside the bar you’re in at The Banks. The city has said it is continuing to work on the idea, but business owners and residents in the area say they feel like they’re not part of the process. Under the state law, Cincinnati can establish two permanent open container districts. Middletown and Toledo have already taken advantage of the law.

• President Barack Obama has commuted the sentences of three Cincinnati men he says have served their time for “low level” federal drug offenses. Alvin Cordell, Isadore Gennings and Tommy Howard will see their sentences expire between this summer and next spring. Overall, Obama commuted the sentences of 61 drug offenders who he said would be free today under current, less-harsh drug laws. Cordell received a life sentence under a now-eliminated “three strikes” law after he was convicted in 1996 of a third felony for his part in a marijuana and cocaine trafficking operation. Gennings was sentenced to 20 years in 2002 for his part in a plot to distribute cocaine and Howard was sentenced to 24 years for a drug trafficking crime.

• The boundary-breaking architect who designed the iconic home of Cincinnati's Contemporary Art Center has died. Zaha Hadid passed away yesterday after a heart attack at age 65. Hadid's design for the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Arts here has added a distinctive, complex edge to the city's downtown arts district. Hadid, born in Iraq, was a pioneering female architect whose success opened doors for women in the largely-male-dominated field. She completed major works around the world, including buildings in London and Hong Kong, and was the first woman to win architecture's prestigious Pritzker Prize.

• The Food and Drug Administration has adjusted rules around the prescription of abortion pill Mifeprex. Adjustments to FDA rules on dosage size and how late into a pregnancy the pills can be prescribed will make them more accessible and affordable, women’s health advocates say. Ohio is one of a handful of states that requires medical providers to follow the FDA guidelines. Pro-life groups here are unhappy about the rule change, but acknowledge that any efforts to challenge the standards in the Ohio General Assembly are unlikely to pass.

• Finally, Ohio Gov. John Kasich continues his GOP presidential primary afterlife, campaigning and biding his time for the party’s convention in July. In the meantime, Kasich, who has little support in polls and has won only one state in primary contests, is free to pretty much say and do as he wishes. Yesterday, for instance, he dropped a bomb that sounds like common sense to many sane people but which is absolute heresy to Republican primary voters.

The Big Queso said GOP pledges to repeal Obama’s signature healthcare law are a “stupid promise.” Kasich said the idea, which has been a centerpiece of so many tea party campaigns for Congress, is completely unfeasible while Obama is still president, and basically called statements made by many tea party-backed Republicans over the past few years “a big joke.” It’s unclear what Kasich’s strategy is in saying that, unless the strategy is to try and make primary opponent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s head explode.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.30.2016 56 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

OTR mosque leaving neighborhood; will MLK Drive get wider?; streetcar gets first sponsor

Morning all. Today’s the day: Our enormous, 188-page, biggest-ever Best of Cincinnati issue just dropped with a resounding thud in newsstands throughout the region, and tonight we’re going to party like crazy to forget how hard we all worked on it and because our city is awesome. You’re invited, by the way. In the meantime, here’s the news today.

Local and statewide Democrat politicians gathered yesterday to announce a raft of city ordinances designed to shore up the middle class in Cincinnati, including a plan to raise the minimum wage for city employees to $15 an hour. That could give up to 20 percent of the city’s workforce a raise. Among those touting the new efforts were U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, State Sen. Cecil Thomas, State Reps. Denise Driehaus and Alicia Reece, Mayor John Cranley and Democrats on Cincinnati City Council. You can read all about the ordinances in our story here.

• Do you ever cruise down the enormous expanse that is Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and think to yourself that seven lanes of traffic just isn’t enough? The thoroughfare could get wider in Avondale and Corryville as a new I-71 interchange goes in, but some members of Cincinnati City Council are skeptical about the idea. Council’s transportation committee yesterday delayed voting on an ordinance that would have green-lighted a city Department of Transportation grant application for federal funds to add at least one extra lane to MLK. Democrat council members Yvette Simspon, Chris Seelbach and Wendell Young say they oppose the widening, and fellow Democrat David Mann is still undecided. Those opposed cite damage done by large thoroughfares and highways in many Cincinnati neighborhoods, saying they want to keep uptown’s current neighborhood feel intact.

• An long-running Over-the-Rhine mosque will move to the West End due to rent increases, its leaders say. Masjid AsSahaab has been on the 1200 block of Vine Street for more than a decade, but can’t keep pace with the rising price and changing character of the neighborhood, according to caretaker Abdul Amir Fealzadeh. Rent for the space went from $150 a month 10 years ago to $550 a month recently, he says. The mosque is currently working on fundraising efforts to fund a new building on Bank Street.

• Cincinnati’s streetcar got its first sponsorship yesterday as local company 4EG Entertainment Group signed a marketing deal with the transit project. 4EG signed a two-year deal with Advertising Vehicles, the firm contracted to sell marketing rights to the streetcar. Officials with 4EG said advertising on the streetcar was "an easy decisions" and that the ads show the company's support for the project while providing an opportunity to introduce the group's bars and restaurants to downtown residents and visitors. 4EG owns six bars on the streetcar route, including Igby's, Lachey's Bar, the Lackman, Low Spark, Righteous Room and Vestry. The company will run interior ads on all five cars when they come online this fall. 

Meanwhile, the city will sit out the next chance to snag a federal TIGER grant to expand the streetcar into uptown. Instead, the city will ask for money for the proposed Wasson Way bike trail, which would wind through the East Side before ending in Avondale, and for a new highway connector bridge between South Cumminsville and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.

The city applied for funding for both of those projects last year, though both failed to receive the grants. Council Democrats aren’t happy with the decision to forgo an ask for streetcar expansion planning. The five Democrat members of Council support beginning the planning process for the streetcar extension, but Mayor John Cranley, a streetcar opponent, would likely veto an ordinance asking the city to begin that process without a sixth vote. With grant application deadlines coming up April 29, the city has no plans to file an application around moving the expansion forward.

• Plans to redevelop the historic Baldwin buildings on Gilbert Avenue in Walnut Hills are taking shape, and they’re bigger than initially expected. The $100 million effort could include a pocket park on the property, two restaurants, extensive renovations to the building’s central tower, loft apartments and a number of other improvements. The project received $7 million in historic preservation tax credits from Ohio last year. The main building, called Grand Baldwin, once housed Baldwin Piano Company and will be the site of new apartments. Another building, called Baldwin 200, will remain office space but will also be renovated.

• Finally, we’ve been light on blurbs about the presidential primary race lately because, really, what can you say? It’s still a mess. But here’s an amusing bit of news for you. Former GOP presidential primary hopeful and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio recently misspelled “United States” in a letter to the Alaska GOP asking that the state party not release delegates he’s won before this summer’s GOP convention. Rubio’s typo reads “Untied States.” Untied indeed.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.29.2016 57 days ago
Posted In: News at 01:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Local Democrats Propose $15 Minimum Wage for City Workers

Ordinances designed to boost wages, increase worker safety head to City Council

City of Cincinnati employees like health worker Sheila Nash of Price Hill could get a bump in pay if Cincinnati City Council approves a series of ordinances designed to boost wages, increase worker safety and incentivize city contractors to pay employees more.

“I make $27,000 a year,” says Nash, who has worked for the health department since 1986. “That’s what I survive on. A raise would mean a lot.”

A cadre of local and statewide Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, State Reps. Alicia Reece and Denise Driehaus, State Sen. Cecil Thomas, Mayor John Cranley, Vice Mayor David Mann, council members Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld and Wendell Young and Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune appeared this morning at the Local 392 Plumbers and Pipefitters Hall on Central Parkway to help launch the initiative.

For Nash and many other city workers, the most notable part of the initiative is the pay increase. Should the ordinance pass, full-time city works will make a minimum of $15 an hour, up from $12.58. Part-time and seasonal workers would make $10.10, up from $8.25. For Nash, the raise would mean an extra $4,000 a year, putting her closer to the city’s median household income of $33,681.

More than 1,000 city employees, or about 20 percent of the city's workforce, makes under those minimums now. The wage boost would cost the city about $1 million in its first year, according to city officials.

Mayor Cranley framed the initiatives in broad terms, citing a decades-long trend of stagnant wage growth for many in the middle class. He blamed off-shoring of jobs, deregulation of Wall Street and an over-reliance on trickle-down economics for wage disparities.

“Cincinnati by itself is not going to solve this problem on its own,” he said. “But we can be a moral voice for the direction we want to go. And we can affect the people we can affect. For those individuals, we can make an enormous difference.”

Sen. Brown, a long-time proponent of a federal $15 minimum wage, applauded the initiative.

“Once again, Cincinnati takes an important step, one that has never happened in the state," he said. "It’s high time that Washington followed the lead of Cincinnati and raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour.”

Critics of minimum wage increases say they raise payroll expenses to unsustainable levels and make it harder for businesses to turn a profit.

Cranley acknowledged that the wage increase will cost the city more money in the short-term, but touted the long-term boost in spending power it will unlock for Cincinnati residents. Brown echoed Cranley and other Democrats in saying the wage boost will improve the economy for all over time and said he hoped it would influence private employers to do the same.

“Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour means money in the pockets of hardworking families,” he said. “I assume Ms. Nash and others who get the $15 minimum wage aren’t going to put it in a Swiss bank account, or use it to shut down production in Cincinnati or somewhere else and move it to Bangladesh."

Overall, Council will consider three ordinances tied to the initiative: one tightening requirements on insurance, licensing and safety procedures, specifically relating to crane operations after an accident at a construction site on The Banks recently. Another would require companies receiving city tax incentives and other development aid to pay contractors and employees prevailing wages; and a third that will boost wages for city workers.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 03.29.2016 57 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
winburn

Morning News and Stuff

Several council members defend park director Carden amid Smale Park drama; Uber and Cincinnati Metro announce new partnership; Ohio Supreme Court limits shackling of juveniles in court

Cincinnati Park Board director Willie Carden and Cincinnati Board of Park Commissioners Chairman Otto Budlig stood in front of City Council's Budget and Finance Committee yesterday to defend the construction contracts the Parks Department awarded to independent companies to build Smale Riverfront Park. Nearly all of the $15 million park was built using pre-existing contracts known as "master service agreements." 

Carden and the Park Board have been under scrutiny for the project since a memo from City Manager Harry Black and Chief Procurement Officer Patrick Duhaney's on Mar. 22 alleged that some of the Parks Department's contracting practices were risky for the city. According to the memo, the master service agreements used by the department for Smale's construction were supposed to be used only for covering routine maintenance. The contracts didn't have enough performance bonds, meaning they weren't able to hold the companies accountable enough for their work on a project as large as the Smale Riverfront Park during or after construction. A recent Enquirer report also alleged the contracts weren't publicly bid as required by state law

Carden and other department officials defended the Parks Department's decision on Monday, saying the use of master service agreements has been a longstanding city policy and the contracts were approved by the city's finance department. They also said they were under pressure to finish the park in time for the All-Star Game, which took place last July. 

Several council members strongly defended Carden, blaming poor city policy and Mayor John Cranley's failed parks levy from last year's election for unfairly putting Carden under the microscope. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson called the whole scandal "a witchhunt," praised Carden for his work on the city's parks and said she was "ashamed of the way the (city) responded." 

Councilman Charlie Winburn, the chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, also blamed the city for the scrutiny the Park's Department is now facing from Black and the Enquirer

"It has put these fine people in a bad position," Winburn said. 

• Mayor John Cranley and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown will announce a new city labor and workplace initiative this morning. Cranley and Brown will also be joined by council members Yvette Simpson, P. G. Sittenfeld and Wendell Young to announce new workplace safety and city labor reforms for the middle class, according to a release from the mayor's office.

• Cincinnati Metro and Uber announced a new partnership this morning so people can Uber to the bus — well, once, at least. Uber Cincinnati will be giving away one free ride with the idea that it will show people just how easy it is to Uber to the bus or from a bus stop to a nearby destination. Casey Verkamp, the general manager of Uber Cincinnati, claims many people use Uber to get to the bus. Previous studies have shown that Cincinnati's bus service is coming up short when it comes to getting people to work. Metro riders can redeem this offer by texting "cincymetro" to 827222.

No more free parking at Covington's MainStrasse Village. Pay stations along Main and West Sixth streets were installed last Saturday and will go live tomorrow. The city's decision is intended to make it easier for visitors and residents to find parking amid an increase in business activity in the area.

• The Ohio Supreme Court announced a new rule Monday that will severely limit the shackling of juveniles in courts. The decision came after concerned parties like the American Civil Liberties Union approached Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor's court personnel about the way juveniles were being treated in courts. They claimed shackling is a much bigger problem in Ohio than other places. The Supreme Court issued a "presumption against shackling" effective July 1, meaning courts can only shackle kids if their behavior is deemed a big enough threat or they're considered a flight risk. 

• The U.S. Justice Department announced Monday it has found a way to unlock the iPhone of Syed Farook, one of the gunmen in the Dec. 14 San Bernardino, Calif., shooting that killed 14, without Apple's help. The U.S. government dropped its lawsuit against Apple this week where it was trying to force the company into building software that was basically a backdoor key into the phone. The company had refused, saying the creation of such software would pose too much of a security threat for all of its customers.
 
 
by Steve Beynon 03.28.2016 58 days ago
Posted In: 2016 election at 11:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Why Is Kasich Still Running?

Ohio Governor John Kasich was crushed in the last round of primary contests, even losing to the ghost of Sen. Marco Rubio in Utah from early ballots casted before the Florida senator terminated his campaign. Between the recent contests in Utah and Arizona, Kasich failed to pick up any delegates.

This battle for the Republican nomination has not been kind to governors. Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee have all been casualties in a rambunctious political climate that seeks mischief and is giving the finger to the establishment by hopping on the Trump train or embracing the rebellious Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Right now, Kasich sits with a mere 143 delegates. Trump is far in the lead with 739, followed by Cruz’s 465. It is a long shot for the Texas senator to halt Trump’s warpath to the nomination — it is mathematically impossible for Kasich. It takes 1,237 delegates to secure the GOP nomination. Even if the Ohio governor won every contest moving forward, there are not enough delegates for him to be the nominee.

Kasich’s only victory was Ohio — a contest he won by 11 points. However, Trump defeated the governor in virtually all of Ohio’s southern counties and every county that borders Pennsylvania and West Virginia. While Kasich’s victory in his home state was a moral victory, it highlighted that even with a home field advantage, he still could not get a sweeping victory like we saw with Cruz and Sen. Bernie Sanders in their states.

Other than that, he probably holds the record for most fourth-place victories. Outside of the Buckeye State, Kasich has struggled with name recognition or gathering any meaningful traction — a weakness that is entirely understandable when you have to make noise while in the same room as a man that flies around on a private jet with his name on it.

Kasich’s strategy is digging in northeastern states like Pennsylvania, where Cruz is not expected to perform well. His campaign is not about defeating his opponents with delegates — it is about denying Trump every vote possible.

This points to both Kasich as a weak candidate and the power of Trump’s message. Kasich has never had a real message in his bid for the presidency — other than not being a jerk on stage. Instead of building his vision for the Oval Office, he hides in the corner biding his time for Trump’s self-destruction. However, that destruction never happened and is unlikely to ever occur.

Everyone is either tapping out, accepting Trump will be the nominee — and possibly our next president — or they’re holding their noses and siding with Cruz, a candidate that in any other presidential run would be seen as the fringe candidate that needs to be stopped at all costs.

It is hard to tell if Kasich actually thinks he can show up to the GOP convention with a few hundred delegates and deny Trump the nomination, or if this is a last-ditch effort to put the Ohio governor out there to take humiliating defeats while trying to soak up handfuls of delegates in hopes of putting some dents in Trump’s almost inevitable nomination.

To deny Trump’s nomination would be the GOP spitting in the faces of their voters. The democratic process picked Donald Trump, and it is hard to not take Trump seriously when he suggests there will be riots if the party robbed him of his fair victory.

Imagine if Bernie Sanders won the delegate game only to be toppled by Hillary Clinton’s superdelegates. There would certainly be some liberal-on-liberal violence in the aisles of Whole Foods.

If this is Kasich’s strategy, it should raise concerns of how much respect for the democratic process he has. If he is just crossing his fingers that Trump’s plane crashes, he should admit it instead of suggesting he is going to upset Republican voters of their candidate to lead the free world.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 03.28.2016 58 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
rob portman

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati Park Board under scrutiny again; Ohio might introduce bill to legalize medical marijuana by summer; state Democrats pressure Sen. Rob Portman on Supreme Court hearing

Despite Cincinnati Park Board officials' reoccurring claim that the board operates independently from the nonprofit Cincinnati Parks Foundation, the two often work as one organization, according to a four-month Enquirer investigation. The investigation found millions of dollars shifting regularly between the two organizations' accounts with minimal oversight to funds. These actions often circumvent government transparency, as the Cincinnati Parks Foundation is a private organization not subject to open records requests. These allegations is the latest chapter of the unfolding drama at the Cincinnati Park Board. Last week, the Enquirer reported on the Park Board officials also not being so truthful about the use of no-bid contracts to build part of Smale Riverfront Park. 

• Cincinnati placed seventh on Realtor.com's list of the 10 trendiest U.S. cities. OK, the list is actually the 10 trendiest cities that you can afford. But is it really worth living in Brooklyn or San Francisco if you don't the money to go out? The list looked into the 500 largest cities in the country and came up with the list based on the number of foodie hotspots, bike shops, yoga studios, cultural outlets and the population increase of 25- to 34-year-olds in each town and then compared that to the average home prices. Nearby cities Ann Arbor, Mich. and Pittsburgh, Penn., also made the list. 

• Ohio might be one step closer to legalizing medical marijuana. The Ohio House medical marijuana task force will hold its last meeting this Thursday and could introduce a bill into the House as early as this summer. The task force has been forming a plan to introduce the issue to the legislature over the course of seven hearings where it heard testimony from business leaders and medical experts. Twenty-three states along with Washington D.C. have already enacted laws to allow the use of medical marijuana. Last November, Ohio voters shot down a ballot initiative by the group ResponsibleOhio to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes. 

• Is it finally time for Ohio to say goodbye to its "tampon tax"? The Ohio Court of Claims filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of four women this month claiming the state's 5.4-percent sales tax on feminine hygiene products is discriminatory against women. It's seeking a refund of $66 million to Ohio female customers. Meanwhile, two bills introduced by State Rep. Greta Johnson, D-Akron, also call for the end of the taxation and are pending in the House.

• Ohio Democrats are putting pressure Republican Sen. Rob Portman to allow a hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, Obama's nomination for the vacant Supreme Court seat. Portman, who is up for re-election this November, has followed the position of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying the Senate should not grant a hearing or confirmation vote of Garland. Democrats say their reasoning — Obama's lame-duck status — is just an attempt to block the president's nomination. Ohio Democrats have recently been circulating an old video clip in which Portman calls the confirmation process a responsibility of the Senate, along with an independent poll that found most Americans want the Senate to give Garland a hearing. On Friday, the White House also organized a press call with a University of Cincinnati law professor and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown where they criticized the GOP's decision legally to block Obama's nomination. 

• Here's something scary given the current tense climate of the Republican party. More than 25,000 people have signed a Change.org petition to allow guns inside the Republican National Convention this summer. The Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, where the convention will be held in July, does not allow firearms. The petition calls on Gov. John Kasich, who is also running for the Republican presidential nomination, to use his executive authority to override the center's gun-free policy. 

• Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders won big in the primaries this weekend. Sanders swept the western states of Hawaii, Idaho and Washington, pulling in at least 71 percent of the vote in each state. The victory still only slightly narrowed the margin between Sanders and frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Republicans, on the other hand, got to enjoy Easter egg hunts and binging on chocolate. They did not hold any primaries this weekend. 

• Finally, the New York Times interviewed Donald Trump on his stance on foreign policy. His policy apparently does go beyond building a wall and making Mexico pay for it. If you don't want to read the entire thing, here are some highlights.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.25.2016 61 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cincinnati_bike lane_dana ave1

Morning News and Stuff

City releases, then pulls, bike lane study; Enquirer, WCPO wrangle on social media; Kasich takes flak for continuing campaign

Good morning all. Here’s what’s up today.

Well, it was enlightening while it lasted. Cincinnati city administration yesterday released, then quickly pulled, a study on safety issues surrounding the Central Parkway Bikeway requested by City Councilman Christopher Smitherman. Smitherman recently introduced a motion to remove the lanes, citing safety concerns.

The study, completed by the city’s department of transportation and signed by City Manager Harry Black, found that that the stretch of Central Parkway with the bike lane does not have any more accidents than comparable streets without lanes. It concluded with a recommendation that the lanes remain. The city quickly pulled the study from its website, however, saying it had not been completely reviewed and approved. You can read our story on the erstwhile study here.

• Speaking of contentious projects that move people from one place to another… yeah, that’s right, it’s more about the streetcar. Here’s a story about the way other cities with streetcars handle big downtown events, in the wake of Council’s move passing an ordinance that will shut ours down for seven events a year until at least 2018. Here’s a hint: Other cities don’t do that usually, at least not to the extent that Cincinnati will.

• Things continue to get real-er around the Cincinnati Parks Board. The city has halted construction on a $1 million project on Cincinnati’s riverfront Serpentine Wall following revelations that the board carried over preexisting maintenance contracts instead of putting tens of millions of dollars of construction work out to public bid on Smale Riverfront Park. Those preexisting “master contracts” aren’t bonded or insured for the work being done, putting the city at financial risk, city officials say. Meanwhile, park board chair Otto M. Budig, a prominent philanthropist and civic leader, has said that things could and should have been done differently with those contracts, but also pointed out the time-sensitive nature of getting the park ready for prime-time by last summer’s MLB All-Star Game.

• Have you seen this depressing Twitter war between the two corporate behemoths that comprise Cincinnati’s major media outlets? TV news station WCPO recently began adding the hashtag #dropthepaper to its marketing campaigns for its so-called “Insiders” program, where you pay them to get like, more stories about the streetcar or something? Unclear. Anyway, we don’t think they were talking about us (we’re like those kids in your high school who were too uncool to even get picked on. It’s a good place to be really). Instead, it seems this was a less-than-passive aggressive swipe at The Cincinnati Enquirer. Enquirer reporters and other print news types have taken umbrage at the campaign, which some have called unprofessional (and worse). Anyway, national journalism commentators like Jim Romanesko and Nieman Lab have picked up the story. Cincinnati: the city where everyone argues about everything, all the time, and where trying too hard on social media is part of building your media brand.

• More signs our state’s economy is lagging behind the rest of the U.S.: Ohio ranks 38th in the country for personal income growth and is last in the Great Lakes region. Even Michigan, home of Detroit and Flint, has beaten us — in fact, they were the best in the region. What’s more, Ohio’s income growth rate, 3.1 percent, has fallen from a year ago, when it was 3.85 percent. Overall, California had the highest rate of personal income growth while North Dakota fared the worst.

• So, as you know, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is experiencing a strange kind of political afterlife as a somehow-still-campaigning candidate for the GOP presidential primary. He has no mathematical chance of winning the nomination in the traditional way, but he’s hanging in there in hopes of a brokered convention. One of the side effects of that doggedness is that a certain degree of harsh light is now being shined on the Big Queso. This story in The New York Times today explores Kasich’s reputation as a brash, kind of rude politician — a rep that plays directly counter to the reasonable, even friendly, image he’s worked hard to cultivate in his campaign. Meanwhile, those within his party have continued to rebuke Kasich for continuing his campaign. The latest hater? Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is considering making an endorsement in the primary race. Walker threw a little shade at his fellow GOP governor when he said he hasn’t decided who he’ll endorse, but he has decided he’s NOT endorsing Kasich. Oof.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 03.25.2016 61 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cradle

Hamilton County Still Struggling with Infant Mortality

Report shows county still has above average rates of infant death and premature births

Ninety-nine babies Hamilton County babies died before their first birthday last year, according to the annual report by the Cradle Cincinnati, a nonprofit formed three years ago to address the high infant mortality rate in the region. 

According to its report released Thursday, the issue is still a pressing concern for the county. In 2015, Hamilton County's infant mortality rate was nine deaths per 1,000 babies born. The good news is that it's fallen slightly from 2011-2014 when it was 9.3, and more significantly from 2001-2010 when it was at 10.7. 

But it's still higher than Ohio's rate of 6.8 and the national rate of 5.8.  

African-American babies are disproportionally affected, with a rate of 16.3 per 1,000 from 2011-2015. In contrast, the rate for white babies was 5.9 and Hispanic was 4.8.

Out of 231 counties with a population over 250,000, Hamilton County ranks number 219 for infant mortality.

Of the nearly 99 infant deaths last year, 53.6 percent didn't even making it past one day. The main causes were premature births, unsafe sleeping and birth defects. 

"The majority of these babies are dying before they leave the hospital because they are born too soon," the report says.  

Though the rate of premature babies born in Hamilton County dropped down to 10.6 per 1,000 from 11.1 from 2010-2014, it's still above the national average of 9.6 percent. 

The county's sleep-related infant deaths doubled in 2015. Fourteen infants died from this last year after a record all time low of seven in 2014.  

Cradle Cincinnati's report offers recommendations to address some of the main factors contributing to infant mortality. It says babies should sleep on their back and completely alone in cribs. Expectant mothers should seek health care, control diabetes and take folic acid during pregnancy.  

But the report also acknowledges that the issue is deeply rooted in systemic problems surrounding race, poverty, economic status and low education levels that aren't easy to quickly address, and calls on other organizations to start addressing the issue as well. 

"There is no quick fix, and this complex problem needs a strategic solution implemented by many aligned organizations," it says.

 
 

 

 

by Nick Swartsell 05.25.2016 7 hours ago
Posted In: News at 08:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
tom massie

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar start date set; will Avondale get a real grocery store?; Kasich still won't support Trump

Good morning all. Here’s what’s going on in the world today.

The city of Cincinnati has officially announced an opening date for the city’s streetcar. The transit project running through Over-the-Rhine and downtown will take its first passengers Sept. 9, beginning with an opening ceremony at some point mid-day. The project, which has been fraught with political battles and funding concerns, is being financed with increased parking revenues, advertising proceeds and other sources that aren’t part of the city’s general fund budget.

• Mayor John Cranley yesterday rolled out more of his proposals for the city’s budget, which involve some $30 million for neighborhood projects. He spoke at a news conference in Avondale about projects he’d like to see funded in that neighborhood under his proposed fiscal plan, including a renewed Avondale Towne Center with a Save-A-Lot grocery store. Avondale has been trying to get a full-service grocery store since Aldi left the neighborhood about eight years ago. The city would chip in about $2 million to get development started under Cranley’s plan. The mayor did acknowledge that neighborhood activists had hoped for a higher-scale store such as a Kroger but that the Save-A-Lot will be expected to stock fresh produce and other necessities. Cranley yesterday also announced he would provide $3.2 million for a new community development corporation in Bond Hill and Roselawn.

• Cranley is set to pitch another round of investments today in the city’s East Side neighborhoods. He’s also expected to announce that the city will purchase the land necessary to build the Wasson Way bike trail. That $11.8 million, 4.1-mile stretch of former railway is vital to the completion of the trail, which would pass through a number of East Side neighborhoods on its way to Uptown. If the city doesn’t purchase the land by the end of July, the price will jump by nearly $600,000. It’s unclear where the construction money for the project will come from. The city applied for a federal TIGER grant last year to help fund building costs for the bike trail but was turned down.

• Wait. Hold on. Do I agree on something with U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, the tea party crusader from Northern Kentucky? It would… kind of appear so. Massie owes the GOP $24,000 in “party dues,” i.e. money from his fundraising coffers the party expects in order to stay in its good graces. Massie has criticized the practice, which is also used to determine who gets which committee assignment in the House. Particular assignments have particular dollar amounts assigned to them, and the more influential the committee, the more money a House member is expected to kick in. Massie is slamming this system, saying it means the best fundraisers, not the best lawmakers, get oversized influence in the legislative process. In what may be the only example of partisan agreement between a tea party member and the rest of Congress, some Democrats agree with him. I also think it sounds pretty messed up.

• What policies will law enforcement officers and departments have to follow regarding body cameras across Ohio?

Read More

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.24.2016 31 hours ago
Posted In: News at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
trump

Morning News and Stuff

Judge divvies up DuBose settlement; council members request MSD audit; Clinton beating Trump in Ohio polls

Good morning all. Lots to talk about today so let’s get to it!

The 13 children of Samuel DuBose will each receive more than $200,000 as part of a settlement between the family and the University of Cincinnati, a Hamilton County judge ruled yesterday. DuBose was shot and killed by UC police officer Ray Tensing July 19 last year. In addition to the money for his children, DuBose’s mother Audrey DuBose will receive $90,000, his six siblings will receive $32,000 each and his father Sam Johnson will receive $25,000, Judge Ralph Winlker announced yesterday. The settlement, which also includes other elements such as college tuition for DuBose’s children, resolves a civil suit against the university. Criminal proceedings are ongoing against former officer Tensing, who is charged with murder and manslaughter. He’s scheduled to stand trial on those charges in October.

• Cincinnati City Council members are requesting the recently completed audit of the region’s Metropolitan Sewer District ahead of the city's budget process, but City Manager Harry Black says they shouldn't rush. The audit, which resulted from revelations that MSD spent millions on contracts it didn’t properly put through a bidding process, is still with the city’s lawyers in a working draft form, Black says. But with work on the city’s budget looming, council members like Kevin Flynn and Chris Seelbach say the time is now to reveal the results of the audit. Things got testy when Council pushed for more information from the audit at yesterday’s budget and finance committee meeting, with Black resisting requests for that information and Seelbach accusing the city manager of giving him an eye roll. Oh snap.

• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is at the White House today meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and state and local government officials as part of a discussion on gun violence. Sittenfeld made gun control a big part of his campaign when he was running for Senate against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland. Sittenfeld lost that race but has pledged to continue efforts to curtail shootings. He told WVXU he is there to learn more about strategies for curbing gun violence and that he doesn’t think the invite has anything to do with his former Senate campaign. President Barack Obama and VP Biden endorsed Strickland in that race.

This is a weird article. Breaking news: The city has a lot of stairs. Some of them are crumbling. More breaking news: The city isn’t exactly rushing to pay to fix them. Thus concludes your breaking news update about something you probably already knew about. The steps are a big part of the city’s walking infrastructure (I take them every day). But they’ve been neglected since, well, probably since people started moving out of the city. The money it would take to fix them is also an infinitesimally small portion of the city’s budget at a time when Mayor John Cranley is discussing throwing $30 million to a few city neighborhoods.

• A federal judge has temporarily blocked an Ohio law that would strip $1.4 million in public money from Planned Parenthood in the state. That money goes to providing health screenings for low-income women, not to providing abortions. The temporary restraining order keeping Ohio from enforcing the law, which passed in February, comes as a larger court fight around the measure continues. You can read more about all of that in our story here.

• Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost yesterday announced the results of surprise headcounts at Ohio charter schools, saying at least some of the schools had very few or no students attending on the days of the unannounced visits. Yost said the extremely low attendance numbers at three charters in the state suggests they might be operating illegally as distance learning schools instead of the brick and mortar schools they’re certified to operate as. It’s the latest revelation in a bad stretch for the state’s charters, which have faced allegations of mismanagement and an Ohio Department of Education data rigging scandal that artificially inflated charter school performance by omitting some low-performing online schools. Yost visited 14 drop-out recovery schools around the state and found an average attendance of just 34 percent.

• The revelations, as well as other frustrations with the state’s public schools, had the auditor spitting hot fire at the ODE yesterday, calling it “among the worst, if not the worst-run agency in state government.” Yost cited poor charter school accountability and performance as well as a slow roll out for ODE’s new data management system as among the sources for his frustration with the agency.

• Finally, more presidential politics, because I know you need more of that in your life. Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump in Ohio, according to the latest polls asking voters about the upcoming general election. But it’s not the blowout you might expect. Clinton’s up 44 percent to Trump’s 39 percent in the Buckeye State — less than her primary opponent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who bests Trump 48 percent to 39 percent in the CBS/YouGov poll. Voters have a pretty negative opinion of both candidates, however — 55 percent view Clinton negatively and 59 percent feel the same about Trump.

That’s it for me. See you tomorrow. Tweet or email in the meantime.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.23.2016 48 hours ago
Posted In: News, Women's Health at 03:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_protester_7-9 copy

Federal Court Blocks Ohio Law Defunding Planned Parenthood

Temporary restraining order against the state will allow Planned Parenthood to continue providing health services for now

A federal circuit court today temporarily blocked an Ohio law that would strip Planned Parenthood of about $1.4 million in state and federal funds.

That law was slated to go into effect today, but will now be placed on hold until June 6 as the court considers a longer-lasting injunction against the defunding move by conservative state lawmakers. 

The money the state seeks to withhold is used by Planned Parenthood to provide non-abortion healthcare services, including HIV and cancer screenings. 

Judge Michael R. Barrett of the U.S. Southwest District Court ruled that the organization’s challenge to the law has a significant chance of success in federal courts, and thus placed a temporary restraining order on the state, preventing it from enforcing the law for the time being.

Barrett agreed with Planned Parenthood’s arguments that the law blocking the money could severely damage medical-screening activities the organization undertakes, and that those operations could be hard to reestablish.

“Plaintiffs explain that without the funds at issue here, Plaintiffs will be forced to stop providing services such as pap smears and other cancer screenings, tests for HIV/AIDS and tests and treatment for other STDs, infant mortality prevention programs, and sexual health education programs,” Barrett wrote in his ruling today. “Therefore, the Court concludes that for purposes of deciding Plaintiffs’ Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Plaintiffs have established irreparable injury.”

In seeking the injunction, Planned Parenthood argues that the law violates the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment by targeting the organization due to the fact it provides abortions.

State lawmakers have been open in acknowledging that they seek to strip funds from Planned Parenthood because the organization provides abortions, even though the public money given to the organization goes to other health services.

Conservatives in the state house have said they’re opposed to abortion for moral and safety reasons, and have described their crackdown on abortion providers like Planned Parenthood as a way to protect women.

“We have an obligation to say to Planned Parenthood, until you get out of the business of termination of pregnancy, the destruction of human life, we are not going to choose to fund you,” Ohio Sen. Peggy Lehner, a Republican who helped push the law, said during debate over the defunding provision in January.

But Planned Parenthood claims these clinics aren't immediately in a position to fill the healthcare gaps it would leave, which would include 70,000 free STD screenings it provides through a Centers for Disease Control program and 5,000 free HIV tests for populations at high risk for the virus.

Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio serves 20 counties in the region. It says about 75 percent of its clients are low-income.
 
The defunding effort is the latest in a recent string of laws passed by Ohio Republicans seeking to limit abortions. The state has passed ever-stricter standards, including stipulations about admitting privileges at local hospitals and rules against publicly funded hospitals entering into such agreements with abortion clinics. That’s whittled down the number of clinics in the state from 14 a few years ago to just nine today. Among them is the last clinic in the Cincinnati area, the Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn, which has been threatened with closure over the new laws.

Planned Parenthood officials cheered the federal court’s decision today.

“This ruling is a victory for the tens of thousands of Ohioans that rely on Planned Parenthood for care each year,” said Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio CEO Jerry Lawson. “Our state legislators want to ban abortion across the board, and they were willing to decimate access to preventive care in the process. But this isn’t about politics for our patients, it’s about their health and their lives. If you have a lump in your breast or need an HIV test, lawmakers should be making it easier, not harder, to get the care you need.”

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.23.2016 54 hours ago
Posted In: News at 09:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
michelle dillingham 2

Morning News and Stuff

City's top brass all got raises last year; local Dems tussle over 2017; historic Bavarian Brewery safe for now

Hey hey Cincinnati. Hope you got outside and soaked up the perfect weather this weekend. Now it’s back to the real world, where news happens.

The directors of every city of Cincinnati department received raises this past year, according to city records reported by The Cincinnati Enquirer. In total, those raises are costing city taxpayers $234,000 more a year. Some of the city’s 25 department heads got those pay bumps despite making few of their stated goals and receiving rather mixed performance reviews. Top salary getters include Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac, whose $162,000 paycheck is 20 percent more than his predecessor Chief Jeffrey Blackwell made. Fire Chief Richard Braun, who is now also making $162,000, saw his pay raised 16 percent. Those raises came during a time when the city projected as much as a $14 million budget deficit. That deficit was cut in half by more recent economic projections, but could still trigger cuts to the city’s human services and economic development efforts, among other services. The city manager’s recently released budget calls for a 1 percent raise for all city employees, and police and fire personnel are negotiating to get a 3 percent bump.

• Speaking of the budget, Mayor John Cranley is set to unveil his ideas for the city’s financial plan today at 11 a.m. at Westwood Town Hall, according to a news release from the mayor's office. On the agenda: $30 million for neighborhood projects in that neighborhood and in places like West Price Hill, North Avondale, Bond Hill and others. City Manager Black released his budget proposal Thursday, and Cranley has two weeks to submit his version to City Council. He’ll be presenting his version of the budget at town halls throughout the week.

• We haven’t even survived 2016 yet, but we’re already talking about the election after it. Last week, we told you about the increasing focus around Cincinnati’s 2017 mayoral and City Council races. Now, after revelations that Councilwoman Yvette Simpson sent out a memo to potential firms that could help her in a bid opposing fellow Dem Cranley, Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke is asking party members to focus on this year’s election. Burke has said it’s too early to focus on next year just yet when there are big races at the county level — most notably a pitched fight for control of the Hamilton County Commission. State Rep. Denise Driehaus is running to grab a seat on that body, and if she pulls out a victory against Republican interim commissioner Dennis Deters, the three-member group that oversees the county could have a Democrat majority for the first time in years. But the call for unity from Burke comes as the party is experiencing tension between two factions in the city: younger, more progressive Dems who tended to support the streetcar and who push for items like increases in human services funding, and more established, moderate Democrats like Mayor Cranley.

• That battle continues to shape up: progressive 2013 City Council candidate Michelle Dillingham is launching her bid for a Council seat in the 2017 election tonight at Bromwell’s Harth-Lounge at 6 p.m. Dillingham came in 12th in that race and hopes to turn support for her from progressives into a Council seat this time around.

• A historic building in Covington will get at least a little more time safe from the wrecking ball. Kenton County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Summe told Bavarian Brewery owners Columbia Sussex that they can’t demolish the 100-year-old building. The structure, which sits in a historic district, once held Jillian’s nightclub. Columbia-Sussex originally wanted to put a casino on the property, but Kentucky legislators have yet to pass a law that would allow that to happen. Now, the company says the only way it can see a return on investment is by demolishing the building. Covington’s Urban Design Review Board previously denied a permit application for that demolition, and Judge Summe’s ruling affirms that position. Columbia-Sussex can appeal her decision, however.

• Finally, University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono made big news over the weekend with his admission that he suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts as a younger man. Ono made the revelation at a fundraiser Saturday for mental health-awareness group 1N5, whose name is a reference to research that shows one in five individuals in the United States suffers from mental illness. Ono said that by talking about his past struggles, he hoped to show that mental illness is treatable and nothing to be ashamed of.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 05.20.2016 5 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
yvette simpson

Morning News and Stuff

Councilwoman Simpson drops hints at possible mayoral run; UC down to final candidates for police chief; Oklahoma passes most restrictive abortion bill yet

Good morning y’all! Here are your morning headlines.

• Councilwoman Yvette Simpson might have released the first shred of evidence that she’s running for mayor next year. Simpson sent a letter to consulting firms this month searching for someone who could help with a “campaign against an incumbent executive office holder,” aka Mayor John Cranley. Simpson won’t officially say yet whether she’s going to take a shot at Cranley’s spot or just run for a third term on Council in 2017 but says she’ll make a decision by the end of this year.

• It’s that super exciting time of year when the city lays out its budget for next year. Yesterday, City Manager Harry Black presented his plan for a $1.2 billion city budget that includes raises for city employees, cuts to the human service department and the city’s economic development programs and building a new marina. Yep, the city wants the Parks Department to build a marina along the Ohio River. Mayor Cranley has two weeks to present the budget to Council, which will then approve or amend it some time before the next fiscal year begins on July 1.

• The University of Cincinnati Department of Public Safety says it is down to three candidates to lead the department. The candidates were chosen by an outside consulting firm and include the director of public safety at Oregon State University, a previous CPD officer with more than 20 years experience and police deputy chief at Ohio State. The department is also down to two candidates for assistant chief, including a CPD Department Captain. UC will present the candidates to the public during open forums will be held May 23-25. Former Police Chief Jason Goodrich and Assistant Chief Tim Thornton resigned in February in the wake of the shooting of Mount Auburn resident Samuel DuBose by former UC police officer Ray Tensing.

• Judge Tracie Hunter will not be going to jail today. The suspended juvenile court judge was supposed to start her 60-day jail sentence today, but a judge suspended her sentence after Hunter filed a petition claiming misconduct by the special prosecutor and judge during her trial. Federal Judge Timothy Black ruled Hunter can remain free during the proceedings. A jury convicted Hunter of unlawful interest in a public contract for helping her brother in a discipline hearing 19 months ago.

• Could U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown become Vice President Brown? Yesterday, Sen. Brown was seen parading around with current VP Joe Biden in Columbus, leading to rumors that the progressive senator could be Hillary Clinton’s pick for running mate. Nothing is certain yet, as Biden told White House reporters that Brown would be a “great pick” but then went on to highlight other strong Democratic contenders without hinting at a favorite.

• Oklahoma’s Republican-dominated legislature passed a bill yesterday that would subject doctors to felony charges and revoke their medical licenses for performing abortions. The bill — which is most restrictive abortion bill passed yet — is still waiting on a signature from Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. If signed in to law, it will almost certainly be challenged in state or federal court where legal experts say it will likely be declared unconstitutional.

News tips go here.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.19.2016 6 days ago
Posted In: News at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

It's City Budget Season Again!

On deck: a marina at Smale, employee raises and cuts to human services

Are you ready for city budget season? It started today.

City Manager Harry Black this morning presented his vision for Cincinnati’s fiscal year 2017 spending blueprint; a $1.2 billion budget he touts as structurally balanced. On deck: a literal deck, as in, a marina along the Ohio River built by the Cincinnati Parks Department, raises for city employees — three percent for police and fire, plus a boost for low-paid workers through a municipal living wage initiative — and cuts to some agencies to make up for a projected $6.7 million revenue shortfall, priming another potential battle over the city’s human services funding.

Last year, Council battled for, and received, $3 million for human services to be spent through a United Way-run funding process, which vets social service organizations based on effectiveness. This year, that amount will drop to $2,781,000.

That nine percent drop once again falls short of a City Council commitment set last decade pledging to commit at least 1.5 percent of the city’s operating budget to human services.

Other organizations now, but not previously, categorized in the human services section of the budget will also take hits. Mayor John Cranley’s Hand Up Initiative, which runs through Cincinnati Works, will receive $225,000 — $25,000 less than last year. Some programs previously funded by the city, like Cradle Cincinnati, which seeks to address the city’s high infant mortality rate, will receive no money at all. Last year, Cradle got $250,000 from the city’s human services fund.

Not everyone will lose when it comes to human services funding, however. The Center for Closing the Health Gap, run by close Cranley ally and former mayor Dwight Tillery, will see its city funding boosted to $1 million, a $250,000 increase over last year. The organization has received increases in past budgets under Cranley as well.

The city’s economic development programs will also see big cuts. Nearly every program funded by that portion of the budget will take hits, totaling about $285,000. Only MORTAR, a program seeking to boost minority entrepreneurship, will see a slight budget boost.

The funding cuts could have been worse: originally, the city was projected to have as much as a $14 million deficit. But revised projections by University of Cincinnati economists showed the revenue gap will be about half that size. Income tax revenues to the city are expected to grow by 4.6 percent, according to a report on the budget issued by City Manager Black.

But the need for cuts elsewhere won’t stop the city from investing in a marina along Smale Riverfront Park. The park board today voted to go forward with the project, which has been in the works for nearly two decades, and Black’s budget calls for $750,000 of city money to go toward the estimated $3.6 million cost of the project. That money is part of $4 million in Black's budget for parks capital projects. Other money could come from past federal funds for Smale, as well as an application for a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The board says the project, which as proposed would have room for 29 boats, will generate revenue for the parks department.

More on the budget as the process unfolds; this party is just getting started. Mayor Cranley has two weeks to present the budget to Council, which will then vote to approve or amend it. The process should wrap up sometime before July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.19.2016 6 days ago
Posted In: News at 12:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
sherrod brown

Will Sen. Sherrod Brown be Clinton's VP Pick?

Appearance yesterday in Columbus with VP Joe Biden stokes speculation

You might have missed it, but U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from the Cleveland area, was traveling around with Vice President Joe Biden yesterday in Columbus.

It’s easy to see the two palling around as a hint that Brown, whose name has been tossed around as a running mate for Democratic presidential primary frontrunner Hillary Clinton, might be next in line for Biden’s job.

But is Brown actually a contender in the veepstakes?

So far, the gruff-voiced progressive senator has demurred on that suggestion, trying to shift the spotlight to other potential VP picks.

“I think Secretary Perez and Tim Kaine would be good vice presidents,” Brown told media yesterday. Tom Perez is Obama’s labor secretary, and Kaine is a U.S. senator from Virginia.

Biden and Brown were visiting the Buckeye State to tout President Barack Obama’s move to extend overtime pay to more U.S. workers, and to do some politicking around the 2016 election. Ohio is a vital swing state for 2016 presidential contenders, a fact that Biden acknowledged was a factor in the trip. More specifically, the two did a bit of campaigning for former Democratic Ohio governor Ted Strickland, who is campaigning to take Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s seat in November.

Ohio’s Senate situation could provide a good reason Brown wouldn’t get the VP nod from Clinton. As Brown himself has pointed out, he would have to leave his Senate seat before 2018, when he’s up for reelection. Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich would then get to pick his replacement. That’s a seat Democrats can’t afford to lose as they wrestle to regain control of Congress.

But don’t count Brown out just yet.

Biden yesterday told White House reporters that Brown “would be a great pick” as Clinton’s running mate. But he also highlighted the strong pool of candidates Democrats have available and didn’t offer an endorsements.

Among other possible picks are Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and progressive firebrand Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who some say Clinton could choose to try and build a bridge with supporters of her primary rival, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.19.2016 6 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
skyline

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati population rises slightly; NKU loses 100 jobs to budget cuts; health officials scramble to find clinics to replace Planned Parenthood

Good morning all. Let’s talk about that news stuff.

Cincinnati’s population increased slightly again last year, though not as much as the surrounding suburbs. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the Queen City’s population grew to 298,550 people from the 298,041 who lived here in 2014. That’s a .17 percent bump — smaller than the metropolitan area’s growth rate of .4 percent. But hey, at least we’re not losing people like we were just a decade ago, and like cities such as Cleveland, St. Louis and Pittsburgh still are. Other cities in our region outperformed us in population growth, however, including Columbus, Indianapolis and Louisville, which each added a couple thousand people. So, Cincy’s doing OK when it comes to rebounding from decades of population loss, but could be doing better. Personally, I’d like to see us get above 300,000 again, so please, invite 1,450 of your closest friends to move here. Just as long as they’re not jerks.

• Did you know that your sewer bills have helped pay the salaries of the Cincinnati Park Board? It’s true, apparently. Due to some joint cooperation between the city’s Metropolitan Sewer District and the parks, money from MSD goes to personnel like Parks Director Willie Carden. That money exchange started when parks began helping MSD with some green infrastructure projects, but now some county officials are questioning whether the funding should go so far as to pay administrative salaries. Both MSD and parks have been mired in recent oversight issues around spending, so this revelation will probably anger some folks. You can read more about the situation here.

• Soon, you’ll be able to hop on Metro buses and the streetcar using a mobile app to pay your fare. Officials with the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority Tuesday announced an agreement with Passport, which makes payment apps. The contract between the two means that riders will be able to pay via a Passport app and show Metro and streetcar drivers their tickets on their phone. That will eliminate the need to carry cash for many customers, SORTA officials say. The app will also let riders track their bus as it makes its way to the bus stop, which is pretty cool.

• Hamilton County Democrats have tapped a big-name political consultant to help turn the county blue in the 2016 election. Candidates for county-wide office have pooled campaign funds to hire Ernie Davis, a longtime political consultant for the party. Davis will help strategize ways to convince voters to elect down-ballot candidates come November, including Hamilton County Commission candidate Denise Driehaus, Aftab Pureval for clerk of courts and others. Driehaus is in a highly competitive race with Dennis Deters for the Commission seat, which Deters currently holds after the surprise departure of former commissioner Greg Hartmann. Pureval faces a tougher challenge against current Clerk of Courts Tracy Winkler, a well-established Republican.

• You might have guessed that outspoken immigration critic Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones has something to say about Cincinnati City Council’s recent move to recognize alternate IDs for those without state-issued identification, including undocumented immigrants. You’d be right. Like any reputable, professional public servant, Jones weighed in on the issue in a tweet asking Butler County officials not to recognize cards provided by the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati.

“I am asking butler county not 2 except Cincinnati mark cards for illegals,” Jones tweeted recently. He later clarified that he meant “MARCC ID cards,” though he has yet to confirm that he meant to use the word “accept” instead of “except.”

• Northern Kentucky University will cut more than 100 jobs in response to budget cuts to higher education from recently elected Governor Matt Bevin. NKU will eliminate 37 faculty positions and 68 staff and administrative positions as part of the attempt to make do with less money from the state. The move will save the school about $8 million. Funding for higher education in Kentucky has been sliding for most of the decade, officials with the school say, forcing tough situations for all the state’s public universities. The funding crunch has gotten worse in the state’s most recent budget, however, as Bevin looks to drastically cut state spending.

• Health officials in Ohio are scrambling to find replacement clinics that can administer services like HIV and cancer screenings ahead of a state move to cut federal and state funding for such services from Planned Parenthood. Many health officials say it’s challenging to find other clinics that can step into the void left by the controversial health organization, which state lawmakers say shouldn’t receive public money because it provides abortions. The $1 million conservatives are withholding from Planned Parenthood didn’t go to providing that service, but instead went to other health services. Lawmakers say the money will be rerouted to other clinics that don’t provide abortions, but critics say there aren’t enough clinics with the capacity to take over for Planned Parenthood.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.18.2016 7 days ago
at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

MadTree breaks ground on new facility; Sittenfeld weighs options; Clinton takes Kentucky primary

Hey all. It's news time.

Let’s start out with some good news today, shall we? Yesterday, MadTree Brewering Co. hosted a ground-breaking celebration for their new Oakley brewing facility, MadTree 2.0. That facility in a former manufacturing site in Oakley will have 50,000 square feet of production space and another 10,000 square feet for a beer garden. The move is a sign of the brewery’s growth: The new site will allow MadTree to quadruple its production and the beer garden is twice the size of its current taproom.

• The controversial Dennison Hotel might soon be designated an “endangered” historic site by a statewide preservation nonprofit. Columbus-based Preservation Ohio is set to announce its list of endangered buildings across the state today. Local preservationists have nominated the Dennison, constructed downtown in 1892 by the firm of noted architect Samuel Hannaford. That designation won’t necessarily provide more legal protection for the building, which could soon face demolition by owners the Joseph family pending a May 26 Historic Conservation Board vote. But appearing on the list can draw more attention and support for historic structures, preservationists say.

• As we’ve talked about here and elsewhere in CityBeat a lot, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is still walking off a loss in the Democratic Party’s Ohio primary against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland for the chance to challenge U.S. Sen. Rob Portman for his Senate seat. So what’s a young man who just lost a Senate race to do? Sittenfeld is weighing his professional options, it seems. He told WCPO recently that he has yet to decide whether to seek a third term on Cincinnati City Council. Sittenfeld, just 31, was the top vote-getter in his first run for the office. If he doesn’t do that, he might jump into a startup venture and wait until he’s a bit more seasoned to continue his career in politics. In the meantime, he’s going full-tilt on Council, and has some solid summer plans: getting married.  

• The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is one of my favorite places, like, ever, which makes this story all the more heartbreaking. Overdoses at the main branch of the library downtown have increased significantly as the heroin crisis continues to grip our region. The main branch is on pace to see 18 overdoses this year — as many as the last two years combined. Solutions to the problem might be difficult, police say, and the situation is just one sign of the larger opiate problem that has taken hold in Ohio and other parts of the country. That problem persists, even as treatment options for addiction have narrowed for many low-income people.

• Finally, how’d that Democratic presidential primary contest go just south of the Ohio River last night? It was a nail-biter. Dem frontrunner Hillary Clinton ended up pulling out a slim victory over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. She took 46.8 percent of the vote, netting 29 delegates, to Sanders’ 46.3 percent of the vote and 27 delegates.

The contest didn’t matter much numerically — Clinton still has a comfortable lead in the overall primary, and Sanders only the narrowest path to victory, even with his win in Oregon’s primary last night. But Clinton desperately wants to put the primary behind her and focus on the general election, where she’s likely to face off against GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump. The problem for her: Democratic voters aren’t lining up behind her yet, instead continuing to support Sanders’ populist campaign and somewhat more liberal message. Upcoming early June primaries should put Clinton over the top numbers-wise for the nomination, but even after she sews up the primary, she’ll have a bigger task: wooing Sanders supporters to back her in the general election. That may be a big hill to climb, given what happened in Nevada last week and the overall contentiousness of the Democratic primary this season.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 05.17.2016 8 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Kentucky holds its primary today; UC to begin renovating basketball arena in June; CDC ranks Kentucky as top risk for HIV outbreak

Do you live in Kentucky? Well, if you do, it's primary day! Unfortunately, it looks like Kentucky's primary has come too late for Republicans to participate in what was the GOP presidential show down. Kentuckians won't be able to vote on which Republican they'd like to see in the White House because Trump became the presumed nominee earlier this month after all other candidates dropped out. But Democrats can still cast their votes for Team Clinton or Team Sanders. If that's not enough to get you to the polls, you can also vote on one of the little-known candidates running for Rand Paul's U.S. Senate seat and who gets to fill the vacant spot in the state House left by retiring state Rep. Tom Kerr. 

• University of Cincinnati construction partner Skanska and Megan Construction announced Monday that it has signed a $70 million deal to begin renovating the Bearcats' basketball arena in June. The University says it's still fundraising to come up with the rest of the money for the planned $87 million renovation of Fifth Third Arena. The announcement appears to be UC's latest attempt to flaunt its feathers to convince Big 12 officials to allow the university to join the conference, which UC has been trying to join for two years. UC officials are scheduled to meet with Big 12 officials in Dallas in two weeks.

• The Centers for Disease Control is concerned that Kentucky's heroin crisis is leading to another possible crisis: an AIDS/HIV outbreak. The CDC has ranked Kentucky as the state with the highest risk for an HIV outbreak, placing thirteen of the state's counties on its top 20 at-risk list. The federal agency began analyzing every U.S. county after the virus rapidly spread through needle sharing in rural Scott County, Indiana, which has a population of just 20,000 people, and found 220 counties posed a high risk for an outbreak, which includes nearby Brown and Adams counties in Ohio.

• Less than two weeks after bidding farewell to his shot at the White House, Gov. John Kasich sat down on Monday with CNN's Anderson Cooper. In his first interview since dropping out of the race, Kasich told Cooper he wasn't quite ready to endorse presumed Republican nominee Donald Trump, he definitely won't be running as a third party candidate and Republicans need to start appealing to more minority groups if they hope to win the election.
 
 
 
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