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by Nick Swartsell 06.08.2015 82 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Could more CPS preschool funding find its way into budget?; CPD anti-violence plan expected today; Texas police officer suspended after pointing gun at teens during pool party

Morning y’all. Hope you had a good weekend taking in the tons of live music downtown. If you’re one of the 10,000 people who saw Ja Rule on Fountain Square, well, I kind of envy you and wish I could’ve taken that early 2000s nostalgia trip. Ah, the days when Ja’s gruff calls of "every thug needs a lady" could unite us. Those were simpler times.

• Today is the deadline for City Council members to file motions seeking to change City Manager Harry Black’s proposed $1 billion city budget. We’re sure to see efforts to change the way human services are funded in the budget — the city manager’s financial plan is a big departure from past budgets in what it considers part of that category, and that's caused a lot of controversy. Look for more on that in our weekly feature story Wednesday. Meanwhile, some other interesting changes might also come up today, including one that would boost the city’s spending on public preschool with some money currently earmarked for street repair. Currently, demand for preschool seats in Cincinnati Public Schools is nearly double the 1,129 spaces available. Council members Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld have floated the idea of taking money from a $110 million loan the city is taking out for pothole repair and fleet updates and spending it to create more preschool opportunities. With Cincinnati’s childhood poverty rate the second-highest in the nation, it’s an important step that could give more low-income kids a head start, Seelbach and Sittenfeld say. Getting enough classrooms, supplies and staff for the first year would cost about $8.5 million, CPS officials say. Cincinnati City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee meets today at 1 pm. The committee will discuss proposed changes to the budget.

• Also expected today: Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell’s 90-day anti-violence plan. City Manager Black asked Blackwell to draw up the plan amid the city’s recent summer spike in shootings, the worst in a decade. Black initially suggested a flexible Friday deadline for the chief, but Blackwell asked for the weekend to finish up the plan. Some details have already been released: CPD will put between 50 and 70 more officers pulled from all over the department back on patrol. Those include aides for the chief and other top brass in the department, Blackwell has said. The chief has also recently undertaken a series of three community listening sessions to hear public input about the crime problem. One thing that won’t change, according to Blackwell: Police will not become “over the top” or engage in stop-and-frisk style policing, but will continue to practice a more community-oriented approach that has won Cincinnati national attention recently.

• By the end of the summer, the second-biggest Kroger in the country will be open in Oakley. The store, which will stretch 145,000 square feet, will be the largest in Greater Cincinnati and will feature home décor, a full-scale pharmacy, a natural foods department and other features going beyond the usual grocery store. The store continues the pitched pace of development in Oakley, which has seen a bunch of activity in the past few years. All of which is great, and I’m happy for the neighborhood. I just wanna know when we’re going to get our Kroger super center mega mart thing in Mount Auburn. I’ll probably have to settle for the upcoming update of the Corryville location for now, but hey, keep us in mind, will ya, grocers?

• Despite continually discouraging poll numbers and an ever-swelling list of competitors, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has continued to push his not-yet-official campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, making plenty of trips to New Hampshire, South Carolina and elsewhere. As he does, his specific sales pitch on why Republicans should choose him has come into focus, as this Columbus Dispatch article outlines. Basically, Kasich says he’s uniquely qualified, having spent nearly two decades in Washington, run a large state and worked in the private sector. He’s also willing to stick to his guns, he says, even when a crowd might not like what he has to say. Then there’s the big one — he can give Republicans Ohio’s electoral votes, which history suggests they absolutely need to win the White House. Kasich’s campaign has said  speech attendees around the country have responded to his message, but of course his campaign would say that. Kasich’s poll numbers, however, are still in the 2 percent territory, far behind frontrunners like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and oh, about 10 other folks.

• You’ve probably already seen the national news item I have for you today because it’s gone viral in the past 24 hours. A police officer in McKinney, Texas, a wealthy suburb north of Dallas, has been suspended after he slammed a 15-year-old girl to the ground and pulled his gun on some teenagers at a pool party. The interaction Saturday was captured on video and uploaded to Youtube, where it has been viewed more than a million times. The incident is the latest in a long line of racially charged incidents between white police and black citizens that seem to show unnecessary use of force. Police were called to the scene of the pool party after a fight broke out between teens and adults at a high school graduation celebration. Reports say that fight might have been racially tinged: Many of the black attendees at the celebration were not residents of the neighborhood, sparking ire from the predominantly white members members of the private pool. When police arrived to address the fight, one officer, Eric Casebolt, began aggressively ordering teens, mostly black, to leave the area. When they did not immediately comply, Casebolt began handcuffing them, and, in the case of the 15-year-old girl, pinning her to the ground and sitting on her. When other teens rushed to her aid, Casebolt drew his weapon and chased them off. McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller promised a full investigation into Casebolt’s actions and said he was “concerned” and “disturbed” by the video of the incident.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.05.2015 85 days ago
Posted In: Streetcar at 01:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_streetcar_jf2

SORTA Releases Streetcar Operating Costs

Lowest bids $7M apart; union employees would go over budget

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority today released the dollar amounts for the two lowest bids for the first ten years of streetcar operations. The names of the bidding companies were not released, per SORTA's assertion that it would compromise the competitive bidding process. You can read the bids here.

One bid, called the management scenario, would involve a management company using SORTA employees in the Amalgamated Transit Union to run the streetcar, while another, called the turnkey scenario, would let the management company hire its own employees.

The bids look to be politically tricky for Democratic streetcar supporters, who have pushed hard for a union-friendly contract. The turnkey scenario comes in just under the $47,088,828 the city has said it wants to spend over the first ten years of the streetcar at $46,972,813. The management scenario, however, comes in over that amount at $54,933,160. In the first year, the management contract exceeds the streetcar's $4.2 million budget by $500,000, while the turnkey proposal comes in about $160,000 under budget. The bids give numbers for a five-year contract plus an optional five-year extension.

Mayor John Cranley, who campaigned on opposition to the streetcar, has said he supports cutting frequency of service for the streetcar should it go over budget. However, he and other Democrats on Cincinnati City Council support the management bid because it would utilize unionized employees.

Some of the cost overruns in the management bid are attributable to benefits packages offered to union employees. However, employees under the management scenario wouldn't be eligible for state pensions. The ATU could unionize the turnkey bidder's selected employees after they are hired, however, though they still wouldn't get the state pensions.

Cincinnati City Council looks poised to vote on the two options next week.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.05.2015 85 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_policecameras_jonmedina2

Morning News and Stuff

Women's shelter opens in Mount Auburn; CPD second in command steps down; Dems push for payday loan reform

Good morning all. Here’s the news for Cincy today.

Today is the grand opening of the Esther Marie Hatton Center for Women on Reading Road in Mount Auburn. The shelter will house up to 60 women seeking to escape homelessness, as well offer classrooms and other on-site facilities. The shelter is one of two replacing the current Drop Inn Shelter in Over-the-Rhine. The men's shelter will move to Queensgate this fall. Correction: an earlier version of this post said the new Anna Louise Inn opened today. That shelter, also on Reading Road in Mount Auburn, will open Tuesday.

• Cincinnati City Council held its final Budget town hall meeting last night in Price Hill. The fifth meeting unfolded much the same way the last four have: The city administration's change-up on human services funding was the main issue, though a proposed city loan to Clifton Market that didn't make it into the budget also came up often. Last November, council voted to double human services funding, but that decision isn't reflected in City Manager Harry Black's budget. You can read our deep-dive into the human services issue next week, when we tell you how that part of the budget has changed, what council is doing to try to get more money back to social service organizations and what the split between the city manager and council means.

• It’s official: The portion of the  Eastern Corridor project that would have relocated State Route 32 between State Route 50 and Newtown Road through Newtown and Mariemont is dead, according to Ohio Department of Transportation officials. The road relocation proposal was contentious: Both municipalities, as well as some residents, staunchly opposed it. The new route would have run through archeologically significant sites near Mariemont, some opponents said, and ODOT cited other environmental and logistical concerns as reasons it was nixing consideration of that part of the project. Other elements, including proposed light rail through the Oasis Corridor, a little-used rail shipping line, remain on the table, ODOT says.

• Hamilton County Job and Family Services will see big changes in the wake of the recent tragic deaths of local children in abusive situations, county officials announced today. The changes are designed to decrease clients’ wait for mental health treatment, provide more in-home services for families and give better guidance to young parents and other youth.  

• Cincinnati Assistant Police Chief Paul Humphries, CPD’s second-highest ranking official, stepped down yesterday to take a job as head of security for Coca Cola in Florida. Humphries, who has been with CPD for three decades, has twice been in the running for the department’s top job, though both times a chief from outside the department was chosen. Humphries says that if he’d been promoted to the top spot, he would be staying but says there’s “no bitterness” in his decision to move on. The assistant chief’s announcement comes as Cincinnati’s police department has received nationwide attention for reforms it has made since the city’s civil unrest in 2001. Humphries has played a role in those reforms.

The announcement also comes as questions swirl around the police department following the revelation that City Manager Harry Black recently drew up resignation papers for Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, though the chief did not sign them and insists he’s staying on as the top cop. Blackwell has since been the center of scrutiny, with some detractors criticizing the department’s low morale and poor upper-level communication. Others, however, including several city council members, have expressed support for Blackwell. The Sentinels, Cincinnati’s black police fraternity, held a rally in support of Blackwell earlier this week.

• City Manager Black says the city will use Humphries’ departure as an opportunity to expand diversity in the force’s upper ranks, part of a larger push by the Sentinels and the city to foster a more diverse department reflective of Cincinnati’s demographic makeup. None of the city’s three assistant chiefs are black, and only one of the city’s 12 police captains is. The city yesterday announced it would change the way it undertakes promotions — tasking those outside the department with grading and evaluating promotional tests, instead of doing it in-house.

• Meanwhile, Chief Blackwell and the CPD are undertaking community listening sessions to get residents’ input on ways to curb the recent uptick in violent crime in the city. Last night, the department held a listening session in Roselawn, where a large group of residents weighed in. Better economic opportunities, recreation facilities and tighter gun control were all ways suggested to curb the violence. Another listening session will take place tonight in Avondale at the Urban League on Reading Road.

• A local video claiming to detail the emotional and physical aftermath of a break-in in Evanston has gained traction on YouTube, garnering well more than half a million views in just two days. Ron Moon, who says he made the video after he was assaulted by burglars June 3 at the community center he is working to establish in the neighborhood, has parlayed that recognition into a fundraising campaign for the center. That crowdfunding drive for 1853 Kinney Street, the nascent community center, has raised more than $38,440 in the last 16 hours. The emotional video features Moon, bloody and bruised, talking about the ways economic and other disadvantages encourage crimes like the break-in he says he experienced. Moon says three men and two women forced entry into the building, which Moon’s father purchased decades ago, and when he confronted them, they beat him and left.

• Let’s jump straight to national news, where Democratic senators are pushing hard for stringent regulations on the payday loan industry. That’s a big issue for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who earlier this year proposed a law that would allow those targeted most often by payday loan companies to borrow from their federal income tax returns instead. Other Democrats in the Senate, meanwhile, are working to get what they call “debt trap protection rules” passed, which would limit the industry’s ability to make high-interest-rate loans. Opponents of the payday loan business model say it sets incredibly high interest rates that trap low-income borrowers in a cycle of debt. Under the new rules, lenders would either have to verify income and ability to repay debt or limit the amount loaned to low-income customers.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.04.2015 86 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
pe_streetcar_jf1

Morning News and Stuff

SORTA, union sign agreement on streetcar; townhouses coming to OTR; Tamir Rice investigation finished, evidence handed to prosecutor

Good morning y’all. Here’s a brief rundown of what’s happening in Cincy today.

The Southern Ohio Regional Transit Authority and the Amalgamated Transit Union finally signed an agreement yesterday over the potential for ATU employees to work jobs operating the streetcar. The union doesn’t have the gig yet, however; council will be deciding among yet-to-be-released bids for managing the streetcar that could include or exclude ATU employees. Meanwhile, SORTA will release details about the price tags on those bids by the end of this week, the transit authority says. The names of the companies making those bids will stay under wraps until July, however.

• Community activists, faith leaders and elected officials yesterday called for the creation of a new community development corporation that will push for economic advancement in the city’s low-income minority neighborhoods. The group, which includes State Rep. Alicia Reece, Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young, Rev. Damon Lynch III and others, also called for $50 million from city and state funds to support businesses, provide job training and foster economic development in neighborhoods like Avondale, Bond Hill and others. The group says the way to address some of the city’s big issues with crime and poverty is by getting to their root and providing more economic opportunity.

• Seven new single-family townhomes are coming to Over-the-Rhine. The homes will feature three bedrooms, about 2,800 square feet each, with basements and detached garages. They’re expected to start at about $650,000 each. Mount Adams-based Towne Properties is undertaking the development near the corner of 15th and Elm streets. Towne recently hired Chad Munitz, formerly of 3CDC, and he’s been key in putting together the OTR development, Towne’s first in the neighborhood. The homes will be modeled after another Towne development called Beacon Hill in Deerfield Township.

• Mustaches are so hip right now. Or rather, I guess, they were so hip about three years ago. But it takes that long for huge buildings to catch up to trends, you know, because they’re like, huge buildings and don’t really get around town much. Anyway, the Scripps Center downtown is currently getting a bit of a hipster makeover with vinyl panels that will make the building look like it’s wearing a retro Cincinnati Reds cap and a big ole handlebar mustache. It’s not that the building is feeling its age and is trying to keep up with current fashions — it’s for the MLB All Star Game next month. Cool man. Just don't try to ride a fixed gear, Scripps Center. That ship has sailed.

• Cincinnati has a way to go when it comes to startups, a new ranking by the entrepreneurship-focused Kaufman Foundation says. The city ranked 32nd among the nation’s 40 largest cities, coming in behind Columbus (12th) and Indianapolis (28th) when it comes to the number of startups created in the city per capita and the number of new entrepreneurs in the city. But there’s good news, too — the city gained two spots on the list since last year, when it was 34th.

• Finally, law enforcement officials investigating the police shooting death of Tamir Rice in Cleveland last year have finished their investigation and turned over their findings to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutors office. Now, the prosecutor says, the case will go before a grand jury to decide whether to indict Cleveland Police officer Timothy Loehmann, who jumped from a police cruiser and shot Rice on playground while the 12-year-old played with a toy pistol. A separate civil suit by Rice’s parents against the city is also pending.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.03.2015 87 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
homelessness

Morning News and Stuff

Fundraising kicks off for new homeless shelter; CPD under city review; Columbus Dispatch sold to GateHouse media

Good morning y’all. Some jerk ran me off the road this morning while I biked to work. I’m OK except for some scraped-up hands, but it hurts to type. Which means you’re getting a bare-bones, just the facts morning news today. OK? OK.

• One of the five new shelters representing a shift in how the city deals with homelessness will open this fall in Queensgate, but it currently needs $2.7 million for opening and operating costs and may have to start out in debt. A new campaign called “Bring it Home” looks to bridge that financial gap. The new Drop Inn Center, which will replace the current, long-standing location in Over-the-Rhine near Washington Park, is set to open in September at the former Butternut Bread factory. The shelter, which will be called Shelterhouse, joins the Lighthouse Sheakley Center for Youth and Talbert House Parkway Center, which opened in 2012, the new City Gospel Mission in the West End, which also replaced a former location in OTR in April, and the Mount Auburn replacement location for the Anna Louise Inn, called the Esther Marie Hatton Center for Women, which will open Friday. Those locations are part of a Strategies to End Homelessness push to reduce the number of homeless in the city. The idea behind the new shelters, backers say, is to provide more than just a place to stay — each also includes social services like substance abuse treatment, mental and medical health care and other services. The goal is to transition those experiencing homelessness to housing. The Homeless to Homes Shelter Collaborative, which started in 2010 to raise money for the effort, has raised more than $39 million of the needed $42 million for the shelters.

• Details are trickling out about the Cincinnati Police Department’s plan to curb the recent rash of shootings in the city. According to police officials, at least one part of the plan will be reassigning 50 officers to problem spots where a number of the recent shootings have occurred. City Manager Harry Black has asked Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell for a complete 90-day plan for addressing the violence by Friday. Local leaders including community activist Iris Roley, State Rep. Alicia Reece, Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young, Rev. Damon Lynch and others are announcing their own plan to help fight the violence today at 11 a.m.

• Meanwhile, City Manager Harry Black yesterday released a memo to Cincinnati City Council and Mayor John Cranley revealing that the Cincinnati Police Department is undergoing a comprehensive “climate assessment.” That assessment will seek out problem areas, assess employee morale and communication and follow up on suggested solutions, the memo says. Currently, the city is also undertaking a similar assessment on the Department of Sewers and Greater Cincinnati Waterworks, and has recently completed assessments for the city’s Human Resources, Human Services and Recreation Departments.The memo comes after days of speculation about the meaning of a resignation letter drawn up by the city manager for Chief Blackwell.

• Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning is the third-best in the world for design, according to a recent survey of industry professionals by website Business Insider. Nearly 78 percent of respondents said an education from DAAP was valuable, putting the school above big-name art schools like Carnegie Mellon, Parsons the New School for Design, the Pratt Institute, Cranbrook Academy of Art and Cooper Union, among others. Only The Rhode Island School of Design (number one) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab ranked higher among the 633 industry insiders surveyed.

• The state of Ohio may soon pass a law granting protection from prosecution for people who call for help for heroin overdose victims. Sometimes companions of an overdose victim don’t call for medical attention because they fear they’ll be arrested on drug charges. The so-called Good Samaritan bill currently before the Ohio General Assembly would shelter callers from such legal action. Similar bills have gone before the Ohio General Assembly before, most recently in the last legislative session. But some lawmakers, Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus of Clifton Heights, believe that the legislature is ready to pass the bill this time around. Kentucky already has a similar law, which it passed earlier this year.

• Finally, this is a huge bummer. The Columbus Dispatch this morning announced that its print products, including its daily paper, 24 weekly papers for the city’s suburbs and seven magazines, are being sold to New York-based New Media Investment Group, Inc. That conglomerate is most widely known for owning GateHouse Media, a collection of 126 daily papers and more than 500 total publications in 32 states. The Columbus Dispatch has been owned by C-bus locals the
Wolfe family for 110 years, making the Dispatch one of the oldest — and one of the last —independently-owned papers in the state. The paper often does great, error-free, typo-free journalism. GateHouse utilizes a centralized approach to newspaper production: copy editing, page design and other functions for its papers are often performed at a single location outside the city where the papers are produced.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.02.2015 88 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
joeyvotto_thecincinnatireds

Morning News and Stuff

Council committee OKs Wasson Way purchase; Cincinnati a top city for baseball; is Columbus the next Brooklyn?

Morning Cincinnati. The sun has apparently caught whatever terrible cold I had last week and is off sick for a couple days. It feels like October outside, which would be cool if we got Halloween and colorful leaves. But actually we just get coldness which isn’t that great. Anyway, news time.

More city-police chief news is afoot. City Manager Harry Black has given Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell until Friday to present a 90-day plan for reducing violence in the city. Black says the chief can have an extension into next week if he needs it, but wants to be proactive and find causes and solutions for the city’s recent spike in shootings. Cincinnati has seen more than 50 shootings and 11 killings in the last month, and 30 murders so far this year. In Cincinnati and most other major cities, crime usually spikes as the weather gets warmer, but this year’s increase has been bigger than normal. The Friday deadline for Blackwell comes as questions swirl around resignation papers drawn up by the city manager’s office for Blackwell. Mayor John Cranley and the city manager both say they want Blackwell to stay and that he initiated conversations about his resignation last week. Blackwell says he’s not going anywhere and wants to remain chief. He’s been chief for two years, before which he served with the Columbus Police Department.

• Cincinnati City Council’s Neighborhoods Committee voted yesterday to purchase a four-mile stretch of rail right of way for the Wasson Way bike trail. The city will purchase the land sometime in the next two years for $11.75 million from Norfolk Southern Railways. The bike trail will stretch from Mariemont to Evanston, with a proposed extension into Avondale. The deal goes before a full council vote Wednesday.

• Great news: Whether the Reds win or, you know, do that other thing they’ve been doing a lot lately, Cincinnati is one of the best cities in the country for baseball fans. That’s according to a new study by WalletHub.com. The website looked at 11 factors in deciding its rankings of 272 cities, including how well each city’s professional or college team does, how expensive tickets are, stadium amenities and other criteria. Cincinnati did well — we’re the third best city in the country when it comes to baseball. But here’s the not so great part. Numbers one and two are St. Louis and Pittsburgh, respectively. You win some, you lose some…

• Former Mason mayor and Warren County State Rep. Pete Beck was found guilty today on 17 counts of fraud and corruption. Beck was accused of cheating a local company out of millions of dollars and originally faced more than 60 counts of fraud and corruption. Some of those charges were reduced, and he was found not guilty on another 21 counts today. Some of the guilty verdict covered serious felony charges. No sentencing date has been announced yet.

• When you think of hip up and coming cities, what places pop into your head? I’ll wait while you write out a list. Did that list include Columbus? Mine didn’t, but hey, what do I know? Here’s a funny article in national magazine Mother Jones about how Ohio’s capital is marketing itself to the young and hip. It's kind of unclear if the author visited the flat, gray city, but the piece asks some intriguing questions. Is it the next Brooklyn? Hm. Probably not. It is, as the article puts it, vanilla ice cream in a world of exotic gelato. But it’s like, cheap, and stuff, so there’s that. Oh, and OSU. It also has that going for it.

• Finally, more Rand Paul stuff. Turns out all those stands Paul is taking against the NSA and foreign intervention aren’t endearing the U.S. Senator from Kentucky to big Republican donors. In the toss-up race for the Republican presidential nomination, big GOP donors are spreading money around to any number of hopefuls: Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and other potential front runners. Pretty much everyone but Paul. That will certainly hobble the libertarian’s chances of spreading his message with TV ads and the like as the primary race heats up. But it may also further endear him to his anti-establishment libertarian base and may entice some voters who don’t traditionally vote Republican into the fold.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.01.2015 89 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jeffrey blackwell

Morning News and Stuff

Wasson Way deal reached; Was CPD chief thinking of resigning?; Patriot Act phone spying provision expires

Hey y’all. Oh boy, did some news happen since last time we talked. 

First, as I told you about on Friday, the city has finalized a deal to purchase right of way along the Wasson Way rail line from Norfolk Southern. If council approves the deal, the city will pay $11. 75 million for the right of way need to build a 7.5 mile bike path from Mariemont to Evanston. The city is currently applying for millions in federal grants to help pay for the path.

• Did the city make moves to sack the police chief? Or was he thinking about quitting? The City of Cincinnati recently drew up resignation documents for Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, the Cincinnati Business Courier reports. Both Mayor John Cranley and City Manager Harry Black, who has the power to dismiss the chief, have said that the documents were drawn up after Blackwell inquired about resigning. Blackwell didn’t sign those documents, and has since said he’s not planning on going anywhere. Some, including Councilman Wendell Young, a former police officer, have said they think the papers are a sign that Blackwell was about to be pushed out. Cranley and Black, however, both say they didn’t want Blackwell to leave. The resignation letter comes to light as the city receives accolades from across the country for its community-based policing practices, but also struggles with a recent wave of gun violence that has shootings at a ten-year high.

• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is still hustling to make the case that he, not former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, is best Democrat to challenge U.S. Sen Rob Portman in 2016. Yesterday, both were in Mason speaking at the Warren County Democratic Party’s annual dinner. There, Sittenfeld found he’s still got his work cut out for him, according to an Enquirer story today. The crowd seemed much warmer to Strickland, the story says, and many weren’t that familiar with Sittenfeld. The 30-year-old has gotten some support for his run, raising a respectable amount of money for his campaign this year, mostly from Cincinnati donors. But 71-year-old Strickland has statewide name recognition and the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton on his side. Top Dems have called for Sittenfeld to step aside, and some at the Warren County dinner last night agreed, but Sittenfeld has said he’s in the race to stay.

• If your bike was stolen from downtown or OTR recently, here’s a quick hit of potentially good news: The Cincinnati Police Department says it located several stolen bikes in the West End this weekend. If you’re missing your ride, you could get a call from the cops soon about that.

• The Ohio Department of Education has finished part of its investigation into Chicago-based Concept Schools in the state, specifically the organization’s Dayton-based location, where former teachers and administrators say employees allowed sex games between students, tampered with testing attendance data and committed other crimes. The 106 complaints lodged against the school could not be proven, ODE says, though the organization isn’t ruling out action in the future if more evidence comes to light. Other charges of test tampering, including at Horizon Academy in Bond Hill, another Concept school, are still under investigation. Concept says the department’s findings prove that the allegations against the schools were nothing more than a “witch hunt” against charters. Concept is also under a separate white collar crime investigation by the FBI for other business misconduct charges at some of its 18 Ohio schools.  

• If you’re really into buying stuff off the internet, here’s a small bit of bad news for you: Amazon will begin charging Ohio sales tax on items it sells online. The company estimates that the move, which comes as Congress works to expand taxes on internet commerce, will put between $150 million to $200 million into the state’s coffers.

• Ohio State University has created a committee to study whether the school’s top administrators make too much money. OSU’s former president Gordon Gee was the highest paid public university president in the country, a fact that has created some controversy as college becomes more and more unaffordable for students. Gee’s replacement, Michael Drake, has pledged to work toward a more affordable college experience for students. The school says it would like its executives — people like Drake as well as athletic coaches and high-profile physicians employed by OSU — to be paid the same as the average position at comparable universities.

National stuff:

• Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden, died over the weekend of brain cancer. The younger Biden was the former attorney general of Delaware and a figure many Democrats had once looked to as a rising political star. Biden passed up a chance to run for his father’s Senate seat when the elder Biden became VP in 2008, instead staying in Delaware to continue serving as AG. He had been a favorite to run for governor there in 2016 before his health deteriorated.

• How big a deal is Sen. Bernie Sander’s presidential run? Many have written off the self-professed socialist as a long shot contender for the Democratic nomination against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and that’s probably accurate. But Sanders has still been receiving a surprising amount of support and excitement from left-leaning Democrats. As the above New York Times story about the race makes clear, Sanders could at least make things interesting in the primary. 

• As we talked about a couple days ago, a key tenet of the U.S. Patriot Act expired yesterday after U.S. Senator Rand Paul led resistance to its renewal. The program allowed the federal government to collect massive amounts of cell phone call data from American citizens, something Paul calls a violation of constitutional rights. The lapse is almost certainly temporary — a compromise bill looks likely to pass the Senate in a few days — but the stand allowed Paul to make a political point and score a few among his libertarian base for his presidential bid.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.29.2015 92 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news-wassonway-700x615

Morning News and Stuff

City applies for fed funding for Elmore Street bridge; Big step for Wasson Way soon?; tiny houses catch on in Cleveland

Hey all! News time.

First, a couple Cincinnati City Council things. Council yesterday voted to apply for up to $33 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grants for the proposed Elmore Street Connector project. The bridge, which would connect Cincinnati State to the West Side after the current I-74 exit there is removed, is expected to cost up to $44 million. Currently, the city and the state would split that cost, but the federal money could lower the burden for both significantly.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is undertaking a years-long reworking of the I-75 corridor, which includes changing interchanges that connect the highway and I-74 to uptown. ODOT’s original plans remove the I-74 exit onto Central Parkway, which carries traffic to Cincinnati State’s doorstep, but wouldn’t replace that exit. That led to proposals for an overpass over I-75 to relink the area with Beekman Street, which runs through South Cumminsville and other neighborhoods on the other side of the Mill Creek Valley. Despite the backing of area employers in the Uptown Consortium, the project has been controversial.

But the bridge won’t cause delays to other parts of the project as previously expected, ODOT now says. Last month, officials said that constructing the bridge, which Cincinnati State President O’Dell Owens has championed, could delay the construction of the Hopple Street ramp until as late as 2020. After the potential delay was revealed and business owners in Camp Washington raised objections, Owens wrote a letter to ODOT requesting that the Hopple project not be delayed by the I-74 bridge. In an email response to that letter yesterday, Ohio Department of Transportation Acting District Deputy Director Gary L. Middleton said that removing the current I-74 interchange and constructing the new bridge would not affect the construction time frame for the Hopple exit.

Owens has said the bridge would provide Cincinnati State students living on the West Side a vital direct link to the school. Economic impact studies touted by Mayor John Cranley’s office and undertaken by the Greater Cincinnati Economics Center for Education & Research in 2014 suggest that the bridge could have an economic impact worth millions, as well as reconnecting neglected neighborhoods like Millvale and South Cumminsville, which were cut off from the rest of the city by construction of the interstates.

Now, if we could just get some of those millions for more public transit options in Cincinnati….

• A major bike trail on Cincinnati’s East Side could soon be one step closer to reality. The city of Cincinnati hopes to have a deal to present City Council for purchasing the right of way along the mostly unused Wasson Way rail line by Monday, City Manager Harry Black revealed in yesterday’s City Council meeting. The right of way, currently owned by Norfolk Southern, is needed for a proposed 7.5-mile bike path stretching from Mariemont to Xavier University in Evanston. Plans for an extension into Avondale have also been floated. Securing right of way for the trail is a crucial step and one that needs to be taken soon, Black said. The city is in the final stages of applying for a share of $500 million in TIGER grants the U.S. Department of Transportation has made available this year, and owning right of way is an important part of winning those funds.

• The Greater Cincinnati YMCA released big renovation plans for its downtown location yesterday. The building was built in 1917 and is an iconic presence along Central Parkway. The branch closed in December for the work, and now the YMCA is rolling out its detailed plans for what it will look like when finished. Among the big changes: much more natural light in the facility’s two-story fitness center, lounges with 50-inch TVs, new weight-lifting equipment and preservation of the site’s running track. That last one is huge for me. Sign me up when they reopen. I hate treadmills and it’s very difficult to find a good indoor track these days. City Council yesterday voted to approve a tax exemption for the entirety of the improvements made to the property. The project will revamp the entire building and add up to 65 units of affordable housing for seniors. The work is expected to cost $27 million. The facility is expected to be open to the public again around this time next year. In the meantime, 12 other branches are open in the West End, Walnut Hills, Northern Kentucky and elsewhere around the area.

• A group of about 50 people gathered at Ziegler Park in Over-the-Rhine yesterday for a rally organized by Cincinnati Black Lives Matter in remembrance of unarmed women and trans people of color killed recently in police-related incidents around the country. Among those remembered was Rekia Boyd, who died in 2012 after off-duty Chicago police officer Dante Servin fired into a dark alley and shot her. Boyd was not involved in an earlier confrontation that led officer Servin to give chase to the group of people he fired at, and a Chicago judge found his actions “beyond reckless.” Servin, who says one of the group pulled something from their waistband and that he feared for his life at the time, was not punished for Boyd’s death. Organizers of yesterday’s rally in OTR said they wanted to highlight Boyd’s story and others as continued attention is paid to the shooting of unarmed men of color like Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and John Crawford III.

• Finally, Cincinnati isn’t the only Ohio city grabbing on to the tiny house trend. People’s Liberty grant recipient Brad Cooper has gotten a lot of attention lately for his project, which looks to build two 200-square foot houses in Over-the-Rhine. Cooper got $100,000 from People's Liberty to carry out that plan, but Cincy isn't the only city where enthusiasm is growing for the concept. This Cleveland Plain Dealer article details how the small, simple house movement is gathering steam in Cleveland and Toledo, where folks are making big plans to build similar tiny houses in urban areas.

That’s it for me. Tweet or email me with any story tips or just to say hey.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.28.2015 93 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
gun

Morning News and Stuff

Shootings in Cincy at 10-year-high; Covington low-income housing causes controversy; Ohio sheriff deputy fired for racist tweets

Good morning Cincy. Here’s your news today.

While we’ve all heard the good news that is going down in Cincinnati, there’s one big exception. Some recent serious but mostly non-fatal shootings in Walnut Hills, CUF, West End and other neighborhoods (including a few right outside my house in Mount Auburn) have put gun crimes in Cincinnati at a 10-year high. That’s caused some to call into question the effectiveness of the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence, or CIRV. The program has produced good results in the past, though its funding has been uneven. But with gun violence on the rise, detractors like Councilman Charlie Winburn say it might be time to try something else. Winburn suggested getting rid of CIRV during a presentation of crime data at Tuesday’s Cincinnati City Council Law and Public Safety Committee meeting. Others, however, say the program, which relies on a number of methods including civilian peacekeepers, law enforcement home visits to repeat offenders and social service referrals, is doing its job and needs more support. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson suggested at the Tuesday meeting that more emphasis on social services and anti-poverty measures like neighborhood redevelopment might be part of the answer.

• Greater Cincinnati’s unemployment rate is at its lowest level in 14 years, according to figures released yesterday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Companies in the region added nearly 20,000 new jobs in April, the data shows, the biggest increase in the past three years. But the area hasn’t avoided a major pitfall that has accompanied economic recovery around the country — while the overall unemployment rate is down, economists say, so are wages in the region. Meanwhile, underemployment, or people working part-time when they want to be working full time, is up in the Greater Cincinnati area. That dynamic could keep the economy sluggish, experts say.

• A plan to renovate 13 buildings in Covington’s MainStrasse neighborhood for 50 units of low-income housing we told you about in March has run into opposition from some in the community, who are vowing to fight the development. Cincinnati-based Model Group and women’s shelter Welcome House have partnered on the project, which is slated to receive federal low-income housing tax credits through the Kentucky Housing Corp. About half of the buildings have already been green-lighted for those credits, and applications for the rest will be filed later this year. But neighboring property owners are upset about the fact those tax credits require the currently crumbling buildings on Pike Street to remain low-income housing for 30 years after they’re renovated. They say that will dampen private investment in the area and lower the value of their properties, and they’re asking the city to fight the state’s decision to award the credits. However, it’s unclear that Covington officials have any power to challenge the state’s decision.

• Yikes. A sheriff’s deputy in Clark County Ohio, where Springfield is, has been fired after he took to Twitter with some seriously racist thoughts about protests in Baltimore. That city experienced civil unrest last month after a man named Freddie Gray died in police custody under questionable circumstances. “Baltimore the last few days = real life Planet of the Apes,” Clark County Deputy Zachary Davis tweeted April 28. Another tweet that day suggested: “It’s time to start using deadly force in Baltimore. When they start slaying these ignorant young people it’ll send a message.” After the tweets were brought to the attention of Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly yesterday, Davis was immediately fired. “If you’re posting these type of statements then I don’t feel you can serve this community,” Kelly told the Springfield News-Sun yesterday evening. Good for him.

• Two of the most powerful Republicans in Kentucky, and really in the whole country, have been butting heads big time in the Senate. U.S. Senator Rand Paul, who as you probably already know is running for president, has been digging in his heals on a portion of the Patriot Act that allows the National Security Administration to collect so-called meta data on Americans’ cell phone calls. Congress has just days to renew that particular program, as well as other parts of the Patriot Act. Paul and other Senators on both sides of the aisle have refused to allow cloture in the Senate for a bill that would do that unless NSA cell phone surveillance programs are nixed or significantly reformed. Paul and other Senators have used procedural maneuvers to keep that from happening.

That, of course, hasn’t been great for Kentucky’s other Senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is charged with getting things passed through the chamber. This is especially awkward since McConnell has endorsed Paul for president. It’s yet another example of the complicated, fractious relationships that the GOP must navigate as it tries to take back the White House in 2016. Paul is playing the NSA card to appeal both to his grassroots, anti-government libertarian base as well as more civil-liberty minded independents. Meanwhile, rank and file Republicans want to see the Patriot Act renewal passed. Politics is awkward and complicated, y’all.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.27.2015 94 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
rand_paul,_official_portrait,_112th_congress_alternate

Morning News and Stuff

New nonprofit will seek to boost streetcar; is Kasich getting soft on unions?; Rand Paul courts NYC hipsters

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

Streetcar advocates are forming a new nonprofit to help raise funds, encourage ridership and help sell advertising on the downtown and Over-the-Rhine transit project. The group will be called Cincinnati Street Railway, a nod to the city’s original streetcar transit authority. CSR will be a “non-political” and “fun” booster for rail in the basin, Haile U.S. Bank Foundation Vice President Eric Avner said yesterday at a Believe in Cincinnati townhall meeting at the Mercantile Library. The group will stay out of the fray on some of the car’s thornier issues, such as the push for an uptown extension, and will be focused on making Phase 1 of the project “as successful as possible.”

• Other key advocates for the transit project, including longtime streetcar booster John Schneider, who has led efforts to make the project a reality, Believe in Cincinnati Chairman Ryan Messer and Vice Mayor David Mann also spoke about the streetcar at the townhall meeting. Mann touched on the continued debate between the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, which will operate the streetcar, and the Amalgamated Transit Union, which staffs SORTA’s Metro buses. ATU is bidding to staff the streetcar as well, and Democratic members of council have insisted that the operating contract be awarded to union workers. However, five highly specialized jobs involving streetcar maintenance might have to be given to non-union workers, SORTA says. That’s tripped up talks between the transit authority and the union, and SORTA says it might have to go with a non-union streetcar operator, as the Business Courier reported yesterday. The transit authority is set to release the bids it has received to operate the streetcar on June 5. Testing on the streetcar begins in October. Mann says it would be “foolish” for ATU to lose the opportunity to run the streetcar based on those jobs, which he says ATU doesn’t have employees trained to do at this point anyway. ATU has proposed to SORTA that union employees be trained to do the specialized jobs, but SORTA has said that the training isn’t available in the tight timeframe in question.

• Over-the-Rhine-based Rhinegeist is expanding, opening a so-called “nanobrewery” at its distribution site in Columbus. That small brewery will only do experimental batches of possible new beers, and there are no current plans for a location like the one in OTR. The Columbus location won’t be open to the public and won’t sell beer. But Rhinegeist’s Bryant Goulding told the Akron Beacon Journal that he’s not ruling out a more public presence in Columbus in the future and that the Columbus brewery could supply some Columbus-exclusive brews down the road.

• The city of Cincinnati today official opens its Office of Performance and Data Analytics, as well as its CityStat and Innovation Lab initiatives. The efforts, which are City Manager Harry Black's first big initiative since coming to Cincinnati last year, are designed to bring a data-driven approach to city government. The programs are patterned after similar initiatives in Baltimore, where Black served in a number of roles. Black hopes to use data collected by the office to set performance goals for departments and zero in on problems in city services. The office has been given $400,000 in the coming biannual budget.

• Let’s go back to the Mercantile Library for a minute. Cincinnati Enquirer reporter John Faherty will become its new executive director, the Cincinnati institution said yesterday. The Mercantile is a membership library located downtown on Walnut Street. Founded in 1835 and headquartered in the historic Mercantile Building since 1909, the library boasts more than 200,000 volumes. The library hosts a number of high-profile literary events and public functions. Faherty has worked for the Enquirer for three years after relocating from fellow Gannett paper the Arizona Republic. He’ll leave the paper in June to take the reigns of the historic library.

• Is John Kasich getting soft on unions? The Ohio guv and GOP presidential hopeful was on the campaign trail yesterday when he said that Ohio doesn’t need a right to work law. A number of other conservative states have such laws, which forbid labor contracts between employers and workers which require all employees to be union members. Kasich has said outlawing that practice isn’t necessary in Ohio because the state doesn’t have a lot of contentious labor issues. That’s a strikingly moderate stance for the governor, who shortly after taking office in 2011 moved to eliminate public employees’ collective bargaining rights. That move was reversed by a statewide referendum in which voters overwhelmingly chose to preserve public employees’ union rights. Kasich’s statement on right to work comes a day after the governor eliminated collective bargaining rights for 15,000 home healthcare and childcare workers who contract with the state. So, you know, he’s still not that into unions.

• It’s official. Rand Paul is courting the hipster vote. The U.S. Senator from Kentucky and Republican presidential hopeful yesterday made a campaign stop at The Strand bookstore in Manhattan. It’s an amazing bookstore, but yeah. Also very hip. Anyway, Paul drew a big crowd to the store after he was invited to speak by co-owner Nancy Bass Wyden, who is married to Oregon Democrat U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden. You can read more about the appearance, and Paul’s efforts to win over young voters, in this New York Times story. The Strand has become a customary stopover for Democratic politicians hawking their newest books. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren recently dropped by promoting her new tome, though the Democrats’ likely presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has declined to appear there. Instead, she opted for a nearby Barnes & Noble to premier her latest book. Oof.

 
 

 

 

by Nick Swartsell 08.28.2015 28 hours ago
Posted In: News at 10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ac_bp_pete rose_

Morning News and Stuff

Study shows kids have more health issues in low-income Cincy neighborhoods; Hamilton County bailiff accused of stealing property during evictions; decision on Rose reinstatement coming by end of year

Good morning all! Hope your Friday is starting off well. It’s gorgeous outside, so maybe cut work a little early if you can, eh?

In the meantime, here’s the news. A new study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center suggests that living in high-poverty areas might lead to more sickness among young children. Hospitalization rates for maladies like bronchitis and pneumonia among young children are very different across Hamilton County, the study found, with children in high-poverty areas making many more hospital trips for such problems than kids in better-off neighborhoods and suburbs. The study tracked hospital visits by census tract and found so-called “hot spots” with high hospitalization rates in low-income inner-city areas. Those areas often correspond with areas that have lower life expectancies and higher infant mortality rates.

The Children’s study illustrates just one of the many consequences of Cincinnati’s deep economic segregation, a set of dynamics we explore in depth in this week’s cover story. If you haven’t already, give it a look.

• This is pretty messed up: A Hamilton County Sheriff’s bailiff has been accused of stealing tenant property during evictions, selling it and pocketing the money. Deputy Bailiff Michael Garvey was arrested yesterday and faces charges of theft in office after officials say he took money and jewelry from the site of an eviction. He later tried to sell the jewelry. He’s currently being held in the Hamilton County Justice Center. Garvey has been a bailiff with Hamilton County for at least eight years.

• The Cincinnati Police Department is adding more officers to street patrols in a number of city neighborhoods starting next month. Twenty-four additional officers will patrol Districts 2 and 4 starting Sept. 13. District 2 includes East Walnut Hills, Evanston, Hyde Park, Madisonville, Pleasant Ridge and other East Side neighborhoods. District 4 includes Mount Auburn, Corryville, Walnut Hills, Avondale and other central neighborhoods. Chief Jeffrey Blackwell called the reassignments “phase two” of a safety plan that began with a 90-day summer initiative designed to curb an increase in gun violence in some city neighborhoods.

• U.S. Senate hopeful and Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is going on the offensive against his Democratic primary opponent Ted Strickland, slamming the former Ohio governor yesterday at a news conference on the steps of City Hall for his lack of opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. That project is a contentious oil and gas conduit that would stretch between oil-rich areas in Alberta, Canada and Texas oil refineries. Environmental activists have decried the pipeline’s potential effects on the local environments it will pass through as well as its overall potential to increase oil consumption. President Barack Obama might soon deny a permit to build the pipeline after years of controversy over the project. Strickland earlier this week commented that he wouldn’t weigh in on the “divisive” subject because it didn’t impact Ohio. Sittenfeld has taken issue with that.

“Leaders lead,” Sittenfeld said at the news conference. “They don’t bob and weave and evade and equivocate.”

Sittenfeld also used the 15-minute press event to challenge Strickland to a series of six debates leading up to the Democratic primary. Strickland thus far has not agreed to any public debates between the candidates, probably because he’s in a very strong position and doesn’t need to. Polls show him neck and neck, or even slightly ahead, of incumbent Republican Senator Rob Portman, despite Portman having a heavy fundraising advantage. Sittenfeld trails a distant third, and polls show him with little name recognition outside the Cincinnati area. Sittenfeld, however, says the race is still young and that his poll numbers and fundraising are improving.

• Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said yesterday that the MLB will decide by the end of the year whether or not to reinstate Cincinnati Reds hit king Pete Rose into the league, opening up the doors for Rose to be included in the MLB Hall of Fame. Rose was ousted from the league indefinitely in 1989 after an investigation showed he had bet on baseball while he was a manager of the Cincinnati Reds. He denied those allegations for a decade and a half. More recent revelations show Rose may well have bet on the game as early as 1984, while he was still a player-manager. Rose and his supporters argue he’s paid his debt for the wrongdoing and that he deserves to be re-admitted.

• Finally, state lawmakers are continuing to weigh a measure that would bring more accountability, and possibly funding changes, to the state’s charter school system. That system has come under fire lately after criminal investigations into charter school operators and revelations of data manipulation by the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school accountability arm. House Bill 2, which is currently being hashed out by state lawmakers, would put new accountability measures in place. Meanwhile, educational advocates, including the state’s teacher’s union and many local school leaders, are pushing lawmakers to address funding disparities as well. The way charter schools are funded now unfairly siphons money from public schools toward private, sometimes for-profit schools that don’t produce better results, advocates argue. Funding changes aren’t on the table yet for reform legislation, however, and it seems unlikely that the Republican-led Ohio General Assembly will take up suggested changes to the state’s charter funding mechanism.

That’s it for me. Email or tweet at me with news tips or fun stuff to do this weekend. I’m out.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 08.27.2015 52 hours ago
Posted In: News at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cranley veto

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley vetoes secret council meetings; The city racks up late fees; Charter school suddenly closes; Pakistan extradites former Ohio state deputy treasurer

Happy Thursday, Cincy! Better yet, tomorrow's Friday. So here's today's headlines to make the week pass a little quicker. 

• Mayor John Cranley vetoed a Nov. 3 ballot-bound charter yesterday that would allow city council to meet in secret about certain topics, including property sales, the city manager's performance and some economic development deals. The charter amendment ballot initiative was passed by council on Monday with a vote of 6-3, with Councilmembers P.G. Sittenfeld, Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman voting against it. Despite Cranley's veto, the amendment isn't dead. The mayor admits it could very well end up back on the ballot as council appears to have the six votes needed to override his veto. The mayor said he vetoed the amendment allowing Council to use executive session for transparency reasons. The special executive sessions would have been restricted to items like assessing the city manager's performance, buying or selling property, disputes possibly ending up in court, security arrangements and items required to be kept secret by law.  

• Have trouble paying your bills on time? So does the city of Cincinnati! A city audit from January 2014 through July of this year found that taxpayers spent an additional $130,000 from late fees on the city's electrical bills. Taxpayers have been shelling out just under $7,000 on average per month for late fees for the first half of 2015. The city previously escaped Duke Energy's late fees as the company didn't charge them to the the government until a crackdown in 2014. City Manager Harry Black says a fix has reportedly come out of the City's Innovation Lab, but Councilman Kevin Flynn has expressed anger over the fees saying it shouldn't have taken a year to catch. 

Ian James, executive director of ResponsibleOhio, the political action committee trying to legalize marijuana, has accused Secretary of State Jon Husted of intentionally putting confusing language on its Nov. 3 ballot initiative. James accused Husted, who opposes the legalization, of using the word "monopoly," which he calls a "loaded term" on the ballot to confuse voters. The term has been floating around the group's initiative a lot, which would enact a constitutional amendment to legalize the plant, but restrict its growth to just 10 commercial farms in the state owned by the PAC's investors. State initiative 3 as of now will read, “Grants a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes.” ResponsibleOhio says it's actually unfair to call it a monopoly when the amendment would allow for 1,150 retail stores that are not operated by investors.

In other weed news, gazing upon ResponsibleOhio's new mascot, Buddie, might make you feel like you've already smoked a couple Js. He has a marijuana bud for a head. Just gonna leave it right here for you to check out. The mascot has caused controversy because critics say he/she/it is too cartoonish and could be viewed as an attempt to entice kids to smoke weed.

• A Columbus charter school has abruptly closed its doors just after the start of the school year leaving 300 students stranded. FCI Academy was suspended by its Toledo sponsor, Education Service Center of Lake Erie West, for mismanagement, but apparently things had been going downhill for the charter school for awhile. The Columbus Dispatch reports that it found the school was keeping afloat for so long by deferring debt, borrowing money and not paying federal withholding and Medicare taxes. The school also received Fs from the state report card on things like graduation rates, gap closing and overall value-added. But despite these setbacks, the school is still determined to keep fighting, according to a note left on the school's locked door in front of its deserted parking lot on Wednesday. In the summer of 2014, FCI Academy laid off 17 employees, and a 2013 state audit showed a $700,000 operating deficit.  

• Former Ohio state deputy treasurer Amer Ahmed has been extradited by Pakistan to the U.S. to begin serving a 15 year sentence for bribery, wire fraud and money laundering. Amer was sentenced to prison by U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson of Columbus late last year. He and three co-conspirators were ordered to pay $3.2 million to the feds. He plead guilty to federal charges in 2013 then fled to Pakistan using fake travel documents. Ahmed served under Democratic state Treasurer Kevin L. Boyce until his defeat in 2010. During his tenure, he devised a plan to direct Ohio state brokerage business to a Canton securities broker. 

• One thing I noticed when I moved to Cincinnati is that people here love their chili.  Cincinnatians flock to the nearest Skyline after a long night of drinking the way the rest of the country flocks to IHOP. So with that, I am truly sorry to report the passing of the final surviving founder of Skyline, William Nicholas “Bill” Lambrinides on Tuesday at the age of 87. Lambrinides worked with his father, Nicolas, a Greek immigrant, and his two brothers, Lambert, Jim, Christie and John to open the first restaurant in 1949. The store has since grown to 110 locations to bring late-night happiness to folks in four states.

That's it for today! Email me with story tips!

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 08.26.2015 3 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

Naming rights for streetcar up for grabs; activists demand more community involvement in UC reforms; Columbus Dispatch demands charter school public records

Hey all. Here’s a brief rundown of the news this morning.

So, do you want to see your name written really big on something attention-grabbing and controversial that will zoom around downtown most of the day and night? Do you have hundreds of thousands of dollars you’re not quite sure what to do with? Here’s an idea: buy some naming rights to the streetcar. Officials with the newly-created Cincinnati Street Railway, a nonprofit promoting the streetcar, are reaching out to marketing firms to help design advertising packages for corporate sponsors for the project. Similar marketing pushes in other cities with streetcars have netted millions in advertising revenues to go toward operation of the transit systems. Locally, some officials say the naming rights could net as much as $250,000 a year, though others say the project’s controversial nature makes it uncertain if big local corporations will want to put their names on it. A suggestion: maybe reach out to deep-pocketed, eccentric megalomaniacs? Perhaps Donald Trump will want to raise his profile here in town next year? What could be better than seeing The Donald’s giant face careening toward you on the front of a streetcar as you spend time in OTR just before the election? Though, hm, come to think of it, streetcar supporters may not be his target demographic.

• I’m not sure this is much news to anyone, but I’m going to say it anyway. We have an amazing library system here in Hamilton County. From its Maker Space to its innovative programming and events to the sheer amount of material available to check out, we have a rare thing here. And the numbers show it. Last year, The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was the fifth-busiest library in the country, checking out more than 18 million items, according to data from the Public Library Association. Now, granted, at least a couple hundred of these check-outs were me borrowing the library’s DVD copies of the Bill and Ted movies, but still. Pretty impressive. The library moved up a spot on the ranking from 2013, when it was the sixth-busiest in the country. More than 600,000 people have library cards with the system. Not bad for the country’s 28th-biggest metropolitan area.

• Local faith leaders and activists are demanding more community involvement in changes the University of Cincinnati is undertaking in the wake of the Samuel DuBose shooting. Dubose was killed last month by UC police officer Ray Tensing after a routine traffic stop. Since that time, the university has vowed reform of its police department, including adjustments to off-campus patrols and joining in on the city’s collaborative agreement, which Cincinnati Police Department already abides by. That agreement was drawn up after the police shooting death of Timothy Thomas in 2001 caused days of civil unrest in Cincinnati. Activists and faith leaders are asking that UC compensate the DuBose family for his death, as well as submit to an external investigation into the school’s policing practices. A group including community activist Iris Roley, University of Cincinnati activist Alexander Shelton, Bishop Bobby Hilton, Pastor KZ Smith and others met with UC officials yesterday in a private meeting later described by Shelton as “tense” at times. UC President Santa Ono and newly-hired Vice President of Safety and Reform Robin Engel were among representatives for the university.

• Damn. Here’s the Columbus Dispatch throwing down about charter school transparency. In an editorial published today, the paper slams state officials for not releasing documents about the Ohio Board of Education’s omission of some data on poor-performing online charter schools in the state. The failure to include that data in reports about charter school performance led to an inflated evaluation for at least one organization that sponsors charters in the state. ODE official David Hansen was responsible for that data collection. He resigned following revelations of the omissions. His wife, incidentally, heads Gov. John Kasich’s presidential campaign. He’s a big, big supporter of charters in the state. The Dispatch, along with a number of other publications, has filed numerous public records requests for documents about the decision to withhold the less-than-flattering charter data, according to the editorial. And now they’re getting tired of waiting, it seems.

“If state Superintendent of Education Richard Ross is not covering up something embarrassing or illegal at the Ohio Department of Education, his recent actions aren’t helping his credibility,” the piece begins.

• Let’s circle back around to Donald Trump, since he’s leading national GOP presidential primary polls, and it seems like the whole world is kinda revolving around his circus of a campaign at the moment. The Donald  may well have taken it upon himself to offend Spanish-speaking Americans as much as possible lately, which is a questionable campaign strategy at best. In the past, Trump hasn’t done himself any favors with this large portion of the American population, describing Mexicans immigrants as "rapists" and criminals. But in true Trump fashion, he’s taken it a step further. Yesterday, he had Spanish-language news station Univision's lead anchor Jorge Ramos physically removed from a news conference for asking a question out of turn. He eventually let Ramos back in, but the exchange was heated, awkward and really just a bad idea all around. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists fired off a statement last night condemning Trump for the confrontation. Spanish-language media has covered Trump more extensively than mainstream media because the leading GOP contender keeps talking about his immigrant plan, which includes building a wall along the southern border and ending birthright citizenship.

That’s it for me. See ya tomorrow.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 08.25.2015 4 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Council private meeting amendment to go on November ballot; no more camping out for magnet school enrollment; former CPD captain in pro-weed ad

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

Cincinnati City Council yesterday moved along at least one charter amendment proposal, putting it on the November ballot for voters to approve. That amendment would clarify when council can meet in executive session, away from the staring eyes of the public. Ohio state law allows some use of executive session for municipal governments, and the charter amendment proposed would specify limited times when council could get together for discussions behind closed doors. Those include discussions about certain sensitive property transactions, ongoing court cases, security measures for city facilities and personnel, certain information about development deals and some discussions about the city manager’s job.

The Charter Review Committee, a group charged with suggesting changes to the city’s governing document, had suggested four other amendments. At least one of those, a measure that would clarify how long the mayor has to refer legislation to council committees, seems to have died on the vine. While it sounds arcane, the issue has big, contentious implications. The mayor’s ability to hold on to legislation amounts to a so-called “pocket veto,” critics on council claim, or a way for the mayor to effectively kill council actions he doesn’t like. Mayor Mark Mallory used this power more than 200 times during his time as mayor. Cranley is opposed to the amendment, but he also claims that the pocket veto isn’t a real thing. Some council members agree, saying that the mayor clinging on to legislation could be challenged in court. One thing is clear, however: an amendment won’t clear up the issue. Advocates for the measure fell one short of the six council votes needed to put the amendment on the November ballot.  

Other amendments, including one that would give council the power to fire the city manager, are hanging in there and might be considered next week, just short of the deadline to get the proposals on the November ballot.

• In other council news, a new tax levy for parks improvement will also go on the upcoming ballot. The property tax boost of 1 mill would mean that owners of a $100,000 home would pay about $35 extra a year. Council’s vote is somewhat symbolic. Organizers of a petition drive collected enough signatures throughout the city to put the initiative up before voters. If voters approve the measure, it would raise about $5 million a year. About $1.25 million of that would go toward park maintenance. The rest would go to new projects decided by the mayor and the park board. Parks funding has been cut in half in the last decade and a half, Cranley has noted.

• A long-held tradition for Cincinnati parents is over, at least for now. Folks in the Cincinnati Public School district looking to get their kids into magnets like the Fairview German Language School will no longer be able to sign up on a first-come, first-served basis, but instead will be entered into a lottery system. That will eliminate the yearly camp-outs that parents undertake as they wait to sign their children up for those schools. CPS has cited fairness and safety concerns for ending the first-come, first-served practice. Last year’s camp out lasted 16 days. Enrollment for CPS’ high-demand magnet schools has several tiers. First are priority students who already have a sibling attending the school. Then a number of seats are set aside for students whose nearby schools are among the district’s lowest performers, an effort to offer those students a chance at a better education. The rest have been up for grabs. Until now, seat availability was through the first-come, first-served approach. Now, a computer will randomly choose who gets to enroll.

• City officials and business leaders yesterday launched Union Hall, a facility in Over-the-Rhine that is touted as a one stop shop for entrepreneurs looking for help in launching start-ups. The site on Vine Street houses startup incubator The Brandery, Cintrifuse and CincyTech, all of which are aimed at helping get startups off the ground. The historic building, which has been a brewery, night club and speakeasy, will house about 100 employees.

• A former Cincinnati Police captain is appearing in an ad advocating for legalized marijuana. Retired Capt. Howard Rahtz, a member of a marijuana policy task force led by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, is seen in the commercials supporting ResponsibleOhio’s legalization effort arguing that the state’s marijuana laws don’t work and that it’s time to reform them. Rahtz touts his time as a Cincinnati police officer, saying he learned a great deal about drug addiction during his service. Opponents of the ResponsibleOhio measure, which would legalize marijuana for anyone over the age of 21, but restrict commercial growth to 10 sites across the state, say they’ll be airing their own commercials. Groups like Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies say ResponsibleOhio’s plan amounts to an unfair monopoly that will only benefit the group’s rich investors.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 08.24.2015 5 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
pollution

Morning News and Stuff

Historic King Records site endangered; 'Nati air quality is nasty; Deez Nuts endorses Gov. Kasich

Good morning y’all. Hope your weekend was as fantastic as mine was. Yesterday I finally made it down to the Taft Museum to check out their exhibition of Edward Curtis photographs. Curtis spent 30 years in the early part of the 1900s photographing Native American tribes across the West. His work is technically stunning and in some ways, pretty problematic, contributing to some stereotypes and perceptions of Native peoples as a “vanishing race” living bygone lifestyles. The exhibit is interesting— the photographs are beautiful and the underlying questions they bring up are worth wrestling with.

Anyway, this isn’t morning art blabbering, it’s morning news. So let’s talk news, eh? The thing that caught my eye around town today is this story about the former King Records site in Evanston. I’ve been hearing buzz that part of it might be in danger, and turns out that may be true. The owner of one of the buildings at the historic site, which hosted early recording sessions by James Brown and a number of other significant musicians, has applied for a permit to demolish the structure. That’s led to an outcry from historic preservationists, music historians and general boosters for Cincinnati. The city’s planning commission Friday declared the site a local historic landmark, echoing a similar declaration by the city’s Historic Conservation Board. City Council has to give final approval to the designation, which it could do next month. In the meantime, the owner’s demolition permit application is on hold. Will the city be able to save this historic landmark, which could cost up to half a million dollars to stabilize? We’ll see.

• Stressed about pollution? Take a deep breath. Or maybe, uh, don’t. A new report says Cincinnati is among the worst cities in the country when it comes to air quality. Website 24/7 Wall St. analyzed air quality data from the American Lung Association and determined that the Greater Cincinnati metropolitan area is the eighth worst in the country for air pollution. The report compares the area to California’s central valley region, which landed seven cities in the bottom 10 of the air quality list. Like that region, Cincinnati is in a valley and has fairly high traffic volumes. But that’s not the only culprit here: coal plants play a big role in air pollution around Cincinnati, the ALA suggests. Take heart, though. We’re not the only Ohio city on the list. Cleveland came in at number 10 in the most polluted air ranking.

• So there’s a new interchange going in on I-71 into Walnut Hills and Avondale, and the State of Ohio has purchased millions in property near the future on and off ramps. Specifically, the state has spent nearly $4 million on 83 parcels of land around the project. When all is said and done, the state will have purchased 140 pieces of property, officials say. That’s part of a bigger land-buying frenzy in the historically low-income neighborhoods. The $106 million interchange looks likely to change the face of the area around Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Reading Road, with new development featuring a proposed tech corridor and other big developments. We first reported on the interchange last year. Stay tuned for more updates on how the development will affect Avondale, Corryville and Walnut Hills.

• Here’s your daily dose of Kasich news: does the Ohio governor and GOP presidential hopeful talk straight on the campaign trail when it comes to Ohio’s economy? Not quite, according to some fact checkers.  A recent Washington Post article dug into some of Kasich’s favorite claims about his role in Ohio’s economic recovery and issued one and two-pinocchio ratings (some shading of the facts and significant omissions/exaggerations, respectively) about his claims. Kasich’s claim that Ohio was “$8 billion in the hole” when he took office, for instance, doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, according to the Post article. The state’s actual budget for the year Kasich took office saw significant revenue increases from an economic recovery that began before Kasich’s term, leading to significantly less shortfall than Kasich’s claim.

• Speaking of Kasich, we live in a world where I can say the following and it’s not just some vulgar joke I would text to my friends but actual (debatable) news: Deez Nuts has endorsed Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the GOP presidential primary. Deez Nuts is the name assumed by a 15-year-old Iowa farm boy who somehow raked in 9 percent of the vote in a recent poll of that primary state. Mr. Nuts has also endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. He is of course endorsing himself for the general election.

• Finally, in other GOP primary news, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was in Ohio recently courting the tea party and the Koch Brothers at the billionaire industrialists' Americans for Prosperity Summit. Bush promised to uphold the staunch conservative values of slashing government spending and you know, making it easier for rich folks to get richer at the summit. The event in Columbus drew a big group of conservative activists as well as a large number of protesters.

That’s it for me today. E-mail me your news tips or tweet at me with, well, whatever you want.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 08.21.2015 8 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover_burnetwoods

Morning News and Stuff

Has CPD's crime reduction plan worked?; opposition forms to Cranley's park plan; build your own donuts

Good morning all. Here’s the news today as we gear up for what I’m sure will be a rad weekend.

How's that crime plan going so far? At the beginning of the summer, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell was asked by City Manager Harry Black to draft a 90-day plan to reduce the number of shootings in the city, which has seen a major uptick in gun crime (though not murders or other violent crime) since this time last year. The plan to deploy more officers in busy places and spots where kids play and to create curfew centers for young people, was delayed at first by the June 19 shooting of officer Sonny Kim, but parts of it were implemented July 1. So… has it been working?

Blackwell touts CPD’s efforts at keeping crime rates from rising during a complicated summer full of major events like the MLB All-Star Game, outside incidents like the UC police shooting death of Samuel DuBose and the increasing challenges associated with the region’s heroin epidemic.

Shootings this summer have been up 30 percent over last year, and other violent crimes are roughly the same as past years. But that’s not necessarily the whole story. Taking a longer look at crime data, it’s apparent that the city’s recent uptick falls in line with past crime trends. The 291 shootings that have occurred so far this year are identical to the number for this time in 2013. Looking at data over a three-year period, violent crime is down nine percent.

What’s more, many cities across the country have experience much greater upticks in crime this year, including big surges in Baltimore, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. Mayor John Cranley has said that’s not good enough, however, and has vowed to continue reviewing data and strategies to bring crime down. Blackwell has also offered further steps, including keeping the city’s recreation centers open later so teens have places to go after they’re out of school. A $50,000 grant from private donors will help pay rec center staff during those extended hours.

Opposition is coalescing against Mayor Cranley’s recent proposal to raise property taxes to pay for a $100 million parks revamp. That measure, which will be on the November ballot, would include big changes to Mount Airy Forest on the city’s West Side and Burnet Woods in Clifton. Those changes don’t sit well with opponents, who say proposals they’ve seen so far remove far too many trees and change the character of the urban woods entirely. Mayor Cranley has said that early plans for the parks were preliminary and not final designs. One showed a restaurant in Burnet Woods, for instance, a detail that has been removed since.

Opponents of the plan, including local attorney Tim Mara, also object to the way in which the plan would go forward. Mara says he’s part of a “diverse” coalition opposed to the park plan, which will be launching a formal campaign in the coming weeks. Mara’s complaint: Should the ballot initiative pass, it would vest power over changes to the park with the mayor and the park board, giving Cincinnati City Council no say in what would be done to the parks. Cranley has vowed that any changes to the parks will go through a long public review and comment process. A number of major businesses have backed the plan, including United Dairy Farmers and Kroger.

The property tax boost would raise about $5 million a year, money that would then be used to issue bonds for the rest of the cost of the proposed projects. About a quarter of the money raised would also be banked for future park maintenance and upkeep.

• There is now a build-your-own donut bar in Cincinnati. Top This Donut Bar at University Station near Xavier allows you to just stroll in like you own the place and start dumping bacon and Andes bars and raspberry goo all over your donuts. That sounds amazing and I’m so glad it’s not on my walk to work.

• Let's head uptown, where the new Kroger they’re going to (finally, finally) build there. The Kroger on Short Vine in Coryville will be twice the size of the current store, which looks like a place your grandmother would have shopped in the 1970s when the fancy store across town wasn’t convenient. The new location will have more prepared food options, beer taps, and a number of other amenities. A replacement store at the location, near University of Cincinnati, has been in the works for a long time. Demolition on the current store will begin soon, after which the new store should be open in 12-14 months.

• We’ve all been there before, right? You’re in a shady corner of your local coffee shop or whatever and someone approaches you, looks around, and is all like, “Hey man, what do you think about some weed?” Well maybe that’s just me and I hang out in weird coffee shops. Anyway, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce will be holding listening sessions around the region so representatives of some of its 4,500-member businesses can give their two cents and help the organization determine how to come down on November’s marijuana legalization ballot initiative, a state constitutional amendment proposed by ResponsibleOhio. That proposal would make marijuana legal for anyone 21 and up, but would limit commercial growth to 10 sites owned by the group’s investors. The first listening session is taking place this morning at Coffee Emporium downtown. The next three will take place on Aug. 26 from 9-11 a.m. at Panera Bread locations in Newport, Union Township and Springdale.

That’s it for me. Hit me up with any news tips here.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 08.20.2015 9 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
death penalty

Morning News and Stuff

Former Mason mayor going to prison; FDA says Ohio's plan to get execution drugs is illegal; Kasich suggests eliminating teachers' lounges, is only kind of joking

Good morning y’all. Here’s what’s happening around the city and beyond today.

Former Mason mayor and state representative Peter Beck was sentenced today to four years in prison on 13 felony convictions related to his role in defrauding investors by luring them into giving money to a failing technology company. Earlier this year, Beck was convicted of fraud, theft and perjury charges, though he was also found not guilty on 25 other charges. He faced up to 50 years in prison for his role in Christopher Technologies, which was already insolvent when Beck and other company leaders convinced investors to put money into it. Beck and his partners then spent that money elsewhere, leaving investors with nothing.

• The big story today is a big scum fest. Basically, some scummy hackers hacked a scummy website for gross married people to hook up with other people they aren’t married to and released a bunch of information about the site’s clients. Some of those clients used city of Cincinnati or other public email addresses to register for the site. Now some scummy news organizations are rolling around in the scum shower and we’re all just super gross and implicated by all this.

Recently, hackers broke into dating site Ashley Madison, which helps folks have illicit affairs. The hackers released reams of information about who uses the site, and lo and behold, accounts were created with email addresses corresponding to a city police officer, fire fighter and sewer worker. Other accounts with local public ties include one with an email address from someone in the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Cincinnati Public Schools and one from Kenton County Schools.

This smells fishy to me, though. Who is dumb enough to use their work email for this kind of thing? Further, is it really in the public interest to know who is trying to sleep with whom? Just use your private email address so we don’t have to hear about it, right? This whole gross thing is why I don’t want to get married, use the Internet, or really deal with people in any other way whatsoever. Thanks guys.

• The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, which as its name suggests, is a giant business association here in the state, yesterday voted to oppose ResponsibleOhio’s marijuana legalization constitutional amendment. The OCC is citing workplace safety concerns as the reason for its opposition. The organization is another big opponent of the constitutional amendment, which voters are set to approve or deny in November. ResponsibleOhio’s proposal would legalize weed in Ohio and create 10 marijuana farms throughout the state owned by the group’s investors. No other commercial growers would be permitted, though a small amount of marijuana could be grown for personal use with a special license. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the Ohio Manufacturer’s Association and a number of other large organizations have come out in opposition of the effort. Meanwhile, many statewide unions and other organizations and public figures have come out in support of the proposal. It’s shaping up to be a big battle right up until the ballot. You can read our whole rundown here.

• If I told you that someone you know was trying to illegally buy drugs overseas in order to kill people, would you be alarmed? I guess that depends on who you roll with. If you roll with the State of Ohio, for instance, it might not be news to you at all. The federal Food and Drug Administration has said not so fast to the state’s plan to import drugs from other countries so it can resume executing people. The FDA says Ohio’s plan to obtain sodium thiopental, which it can’t get in the U.S., is illegal.

The state’s plan has been necessitated by U.S. companies’ refusal to supply the necessary drugs for executions and by a highly-problematic 2014 execution here that used a replacement two-drug cocktail. That combination caused convicted killer Dennis McGuire to snort and gasp during his execution. It took him more than 26 minutes to die using the replacement drug cocktail, and similar combinations have caused other, sometimes gruesome, irregularities in executions in other states. After McGuire’s execution, the state placed a moratorium on carrying out the death penalty until it can secure more humane ways to execute inmates. There are currently no executions planned this year, but the state has 21 slated starting next year and stretching into 2019.

• It’s a good thing Ohio Gov. John Kasich isn’t running for king of America. If he was, teachers could kiss their lounges goodbye. Kasich made that strangely aggressive statement yesterday during an education forum in New Hampshire, a vital early primary state as Kasich battles with the hordes of GOP presidential hopefuls for a national look at the nomination. Kasich told an audience on the panel that if he were in charge, teachers wouldn’t have lounges where “they sit together and worry about ‘woe is us.’ ” Kasich went on to praise the work teachers do, but said teacher’s unions create an environment of fear and scare educators into thinking their wages and benefits will be taken away. Huh. Maybe it’s the low wages, high work hours, constant testing and uncertainty about funding that is playing into that mindset, but yeah, you’re probably right. Having a lounge to sit in definitely plays into the fear factor somehow. Next up: All teachers must eat in their cars at lunch time and not talk to anyone else at all.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 08.18.2015 11 days ago
at 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_weedunicorn700x615

Morning News and Stuff

ResponsibleOhio opponents speak up; discrepancies between life expectancy in Cincinnati's rich and poor neighborhoods; Kasich regrets the Iraq war

Now that ResponsibleOhio's initiative to legalize marijuana is officially on the Nov. 3 ballot, opposition has formalized against constitutional amendment that could legalize a weed monopoly. Yesterday, a coalition called Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies launched its coalition against the constitutional amendment that would only allow 10 Ohio farms to grow and sell the plant. The coalition includes the Avondale-based Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. In a press conference at the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus yesterday, the group raised concerns that legalizing marijuana could increase its access to children and teens as well as give the false perception that the drug is safe. Cincinnati Children's Hospital told the Business Courier that it is particularly concerned with kids getting their hands on candy and baked goods that contained marijuana. The group was also concerned that the measure would allow an individual to possess a up to a half-pound of pot, or enough to roll about 500 joints. 

• ResponsibleOhio isn't the only constitutional amendment voters will face in November. State lawmakers have put a second initiative on the ballot to block the monopoly-centered business model ResponsibleOhio has proposed for marijuana farms. So what happens if the two conflicting amendments pass? According to Secretary of State Jon Husted, the amendment to block marijuana would prevail because it goes into effect first. 

• Hamilton County's public health department found Indian Hill residents can expect on average to live 17 years longer than Lincoln Heights residents. A study by the department's epidemiologists looked at 13 measures of health found a 17-year difference in life expectancy across the county most heavily coordinated with your zip code. The rates of heart disease, cancer and stroke were significantly higher in lower-income areas than in higher-income areas. Norwood, Lincoln Heights, Lockland, Cleves, Addyston and Elmwood Place have life expectancies between 69.9 and 73.3 years, while Indian Hill, Montgomery, Evendale, Wyoming, Terrace Park and Amberley Village have life expectancies from 81.8 to 87 years.

• Gov. John Kasich told CNN he regrets supporting the Iraq invasion in 2003, but does support sending American troops back to the Middle East to fight the Islamic State. The GOP presidential nominee said that he made his decision a decade ago based just on erroneous reports of weapons of mass destruction, and had it not been for that small detail, he never would have supported it.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 08.17.2015 12 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
weed

Morning News and Stuff

Former employees file lawsuit against Toby Keith bar; Ohio's Senate candidates have money, but not enough to swim in Scrooge McDuck-style; congrats Ohio, we bought $1 billion in booze last year

Good morning y’all. I hope your weekend was fantastic and your summer is winding down nicely. Here’s the news today.

Former employees of now-shuttered Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar at The Banks have filed a lawsuit claiming the bar’s management purposely concealed the fact that the bar was closing and issued paychecks that later bounced. The bar closed July 16 due to unpaid rent two days after the MLB All-Star Game. Employees filing the class action suit say they were given no notice of the closure and that the Chase Bank account that their last paychecks were issued from is empty. Representatives for the bar, which is part of a nationwide chain, have not responded to requests for comment on the closure or the lawsuit. The Cincinnati location and others across the country have been subject to a number of lawsuits.

• A controversial marijuana legalization effort just got more opposition. ResponsibleOhio recently received confirmation that its proposed amendment to the state constitution will be on the November ballot. Now the group is working to rally its supporters even as powerful opposition emerges. Both conservative officials including State Auditor David Yost, other legalization efforts like Ohioans to End Prohibition and others have come out against ResponsibleOhio’s plan, which would legalize marijuana but limit commercial production to 10 grow sites owned by the group’s investors. Now, a powerful trade group is also opposing the plan. The Ohio Manufacturer’s Association says it opposes the proposed amendment, citing possible workplace safety issues and the plan’s creation of what it calls a monopoly. ResponsibleOhio’s Ian James has called those concerns “fear mongering.”

• Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted on Friday struck down charter proposals in three Ohio counties that would have outlawed fracking there. Athens, Medina and Fulton Counties were mulling the charter amendments, which, if approved by voters, would have prohibited the drilling techniques. But Husted says those charter amendments violate the state’s constitution and will not be enforceable. The power to regulate fracking lies with the state, Husted argues, and not with local or county governments. Hm. I thought conservatives liked small government and hated state control of things?

• Welp, personal financial disclosures are in for U.S. Senate candidates looking to woo Ohio voters, and of course we’re all sitting in the edge of our seats like it’s the last damned episode of Serial or something. Err, at least I am. You don’t get a huge buzz from checking out financial disclosures? Does sitting Sen. Rob Portman have enough cash to float the yacht he could purchase with his cash? What about former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who was once one of the least-wealthy members of Congress? Has he upped his personal cash flow game? And how is hometown upstart and Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld stacking up when it comes to, uh, stacking up?

Well, this piece has the answers for you. Portman is worth somewhere between $8 and $20 million — pretty respectable, though not top Senate-earner material. Strickland is worth somewhere between $300,000 and $700,000. Nothing to sneeze at, but he’d probably get picked on by the other kids in the Senate because his Nikes aren’t new enough. Meanwhile, Sittenfeld says he’s worth exactly $329,178. About half of that is in retirement accounts, because, you know, that’s gonna happen soon for the 30-year-old wiz kid. So wait, this guy’s younger than me and his retirement accounts have more in them than my bank account (by a long shot). Hold on, I need to go cry somewhere for a few minutes over my less than stellar life choices. Reason number 973 why I’m not running for Senate.

• Speaking of running for things, we have a guy running our state who is also running for president. Just in case you hadn’t heard about that. Gov. John Kasich has done pretty well for himself since last week’s first GOP primary debate, gaining some much-needed national attention for his campaign and even boosting his poll numbers in pivotal primary state New Hampshire. Kasich is now running third there behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush and real estate dude Donald Trump. Kasich has also grabbed a couple key endorsements, including one from Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. It’s a sign that Kasich is making headway in his quest for the presidency, though wider polling shows he’ s still got a way to go and is far down the list of national GOP favorites.

• Finally, if all this politics stuff makes you want to drink, you’re not alone. A new report from the Ohio Department of Commerce Sunday revealed that Ohioans set a record for liquor sales last year, buying nearly $1 billion of the stuff. Most of the 7 percent uptick from previous years comes from folks buying fancier, more expensive booze, not necessarily because people are grabbing five bottles of Boone's Farm instead of four.

That's it for me. Tweet at me or email news tips, the best taco toppings, or your favorite flavor/combination of flavors of Boone's Farm. I like them all because I'm a journalist and that's how we roll.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 08.14.2015 15 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
p.g. sittenfeld.nar

Morning News and Stuff

Rec Centers to offer longer hours for eight weeks; Cranley barbecues the crime wave; Former Xavier assistant basketball coach accused of sexual abuse; Regional study could mean more train services between Cincy and Chicago

Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines. 

• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld announced yesterday at a press conference at Lincoln Recreation Center in the West End that the city will be rolling out an eight week pilot program partnership between the city, the Cincinnati Police Department and the city's recreation centers to keep five of Cincinnati's recreation centers open longer hours and open up a Lower Price Hill school for community use. Starting this Saturday, the Bush, Evanston, Hirsch, Millvale and Price Hills recreation centers will be open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and will stay open until 9 p.m. on weekdays. Oyler School will start granting community members access to its facilities. The eight pilot program will cost $50,000 dollars with $25,000 coming from the city and another $25,000 from an anonymous private donor. At the end of its run, the program will be evaluated and possibly extended into other recreation centers and schools depending on its effectiveness.   

Sittenfeld hinted that part of the push for the program has come from a recent spike in gun violence over the past few months, saying, "part of the reason we feel a lot of urgency on this is that everybody knows that summer can be a little bit hotter time of year, and just not in terms of the temperature."

• Mayor John Cranley is also out and about trying to reduce the city's crime wave. Cranley was spotted last week at a barbecue put together by Cincinnati Works in East Westwood, one of the highest crime neighborhoods in the city, talking with community leaders about their concerns. In June, the city pushed out an ambitious 90 day plan to reduce citywide shootings by 5 percent and overall crime by 10 percent, but some priorities have been dropped since the July shooting of Officer Sonny Kim, including curfew enforcement. 

• A Xavier University basketball player has filed a complaint of sexual abuse against former assistant coach, Bryce McKey. The 20-year-old player alleged that last May McKey invited her over to his northern Kentucky home, gave her several alcoholic beverages, fondled her twice and then tried to kiss her as she left. The player also claims that McKey tried to offer her money to not file a complaint in the days that followed. McKey, who has since left Xavier for a position an assistant coach for the University of Maryland's women's basketball team, has been suspended indefinitely from his new job and is scheduled to be arraigned this morning at the Kenton County Courthouse. He could face up to 90 days in jail or a fine of $250 dollars if convicted. 

• A Cincinnati-based state Senator has introduced a bill that would keep cops from being able to pull over motorists just for missing a front license plate. The lack of a front plate lead to a traffic stop last month in Mount Auburn in which unarmed 43-year-old Samuel Dubose was shot by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing.  Sen Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) has proposed a bill making the lack of a front license place a secondary, rather than primary offense. So in order to be ticketed for it, a motorist must have been pulled over for another offense. Thomas, who is a former police officer, has titled the bill the "Dubose was Beacon Act."

• The Federal Railroad Administration is funding a regional study that could potentially increase train service between Cincinnati and Chicago. The FRA is planning to announce a study of a region-wide service that could increase service between the two cities. The Midwest and Southeast are the two regions chosen by Congress to spend $2.8 million on studying and planning rail networks. The federal money will flow through the Ohio Department of Transportation. That's wonderful news for rail advocates. Gov. John Kasich, who is not much of a fan of commuter rail, cancelled the Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland Amtrak route in 2011, a project which had $400 million from the federal government.

• Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign has just announced the former secretary of state and Democratic prez hopeful will visit Cincinnati next month. Clinton will swing through the area Sept. 10 for a fundraising event and campaign stop. Clinton so far has been the easy frontrunner for the Democratic nod, but she's faced some opposition of late from Vermont's U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has campaigned on a more left-leaning, populist message.

 
 
 
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