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by Nick Swartsell 07.15.2015 81 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
joe deters

Morning News and Stuff

Deters: no hate crime charges for July 4 incident; Ohio Department of Education omitted failing charter school data; Obama announces initiative to provide broadband to low-income communities

Hey hey all. Our big, extended weekend basking in the MLB All-Star Game spotlight is over, and it seems like the city represented well. Our guy won the home run derby, we’ve got columnists expounding on the virtues of Cincinnati chili (and giving shoutouts to CityBeat) and even though the American League won the game, it was still a pretty fun time. Well done. But now it’s done.

The national media, hungover and chili-bloated, are packing up their gear. Snoop Dogg and the other A-listers have all gone home, or, more likely, to the super-exclusive ASG after party on a small island in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, a group of confused tourists is waking up after an all-night bender on a raft in the Ohio River composed entirely of a flotilla of thousands of discarded Red Bull cans and foam fingers. Someone get them out of there. All that means it’s back to the real world in Cincy. Here’s the news.

• Law enforcement and city officials say they’re pleased with how the ASG went down, with no violent incidents reported during the festivities. There was concern in the city after a July 4 incident on Fountain Square resulted in several arrests and an altercation left a man hospitalized, but city officials say the ASG, which drew an estimated 200,000 people to the city, went off without a hitch. The Cincinnati Police Department credits coordination among more than 25 organizations, including the Coast Guard, which helped patrol the Ohio River.

• Speaking of that July 4 incident, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced yesterday that his office would not be seeking hate crime charges against a group of men who allegedly beat 27-year-old Indiana man Christopher McKnight. McKnight is white, and his assailants were black. But Deters points out that there is no other evidence suggesting the crime was racially motivated. Deters has said he’ll be seeking felony charges against the four men suspected in the beating, calling them “a bunch of lawless thugs.” A video showing the altercation presents an ambiguous and incomplete record of the attack: It starts with one man fighting McKnight, followed by a few others jumping in as well while punching and kicking McKnight. At various times, McKnight is on the ground on the defensive, other times seemingly throwing punches, and at one point up moving around and raising his arms in a confrontational manner. Eventually, the action moves off-camera, where McKnight apparently sustained a broken nose, a concussion and wounds requiring stitches.

• The 19-year-old who turfed internationally recognized historic site and sacred Native American earthwork Serpent Mound will face a fine of about $4,000, community service, and a possible essay assignment about the site’s significance. Daniel Coleman Dargavelli hopped a curb and took a joyride over the site, leaving tire tracks along the ancient mound. Park officials say the damage is repairable but that the act showed serious disrespect for the sacred location.

• Did the Ohio Department of Education break the law by leaving out failing scores from online charter schools in an assessment of Ohio charter school performance? It seems so. The department’s charter school oversight director David Hansen admitted he omitted “F” grades for online charters from a report on charter school oversight. That report then showed charter schools and the organizations charged with overseeing them in a much more positive light. Hansen has said he did so because the failures of those schools “masked successes elsewhere” at more successful charters. But the omission is clearly against Ohio law, says State Sen. Peggy Lehner, who grilled Hansen yesterday on the missing data.

• Finally, President Barack Obama is set today to announce a test program designed to bring broadband Internet to more low-income households throughout the country. Obama will announce the initiative in the Choctaw Nation, a Native American community in Oklahoma, which will be one beneficiary of the pilot program. The initiative will also extend broadband access to about 275,000 households in 27 cities around the U.S. The eventual goal, according to the administration, is to extend high-speed internet access to every part of the country. Currently, a large gap exists in internet access for low-income communities. About 95 percent of households with adults with college degrees have access to internet, while only about 43 percent of households without high school diplomas have that access.

by Nick Swartsell 07.14.2015 82 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
rob portman

Morning News and Stuff

Lincoln Heights' struggles in national spotlight; Deters to address Fountain Square unrest; awkward times for Ohio GOPers

Good morning all. It’s news time, and the biggest news is something you probably already know: The Reds’ Todd Frazier won the MLB Home Run Derby last night in an amazing comeback, sending 14 over the fence in the final round of the tournament against Joc Pederson from the L.A. Dodgers. There were tons of fireworks, followed shortly afterward by a thunderstorm. It was that epic. This is only the second time someone has won the Derby on their home field — the Chicago Cubs’ Ryne Sandberg took the trophy at Wrigley Field in 1990. Frazier's victory is a great run-up to the big All-Star Game today.

Anyway, on to other news. The Atlantic yesterday published a big article on Lincoln Heights, the community just north of Cincinnati that was at one time one of the first primarily black self-governing cities in the country. And for a while, things were good there. Factory jobs assured good middle-class incomes and well-kept neighborhoods and schools. Famed poet Nikki Giovanni, musicians the Isley Brothers and other notable folks hailed from the burb. But systemic forces, including the way the city was incorporated by Hamilton County, conspired to hobble the community, and today it’s a struggling suburb with high poverty, no police force and crumbling schools. I’ve pitched this article to mags before and I’m a little bummed someone beat me to it, but I’m glad it’s being covered.

• Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters will hold a news conference at 11:30 a.m. today on the July 4 unrest at Fountain Square. Specifically, Deters is expected to address possible hate crime charges against three men accused of beating up Indiana native Christopher McKnight. Three men accused of the crime, who police arrested this week, are black. McKnight is white.

There has been some confusion about whether police believe the incident was racially motivated. An initial report by a responding officer called the altercation “anti-white” though police backpedaled on that assertion the next day. However, they reversed course again late last week when Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell asked the prosecutor’s office to pursue the hate crime charges. Video of part of the fight taken from a Metro bus doesn’t clear up the situation: It shows McKnight struggling with one individual, then shows a few others joining in the fight against him. McKnight is shown on both the defensive and pursuing and throwing punches during the altercation. Later, video shows him getting up and walking back and forth among the crowd with his hands up in an aggressive manner. He then wanders out of frame, where apparently a further fight took place that left him with a concussion and broken nose. It is unclear if police have more evidence that the altercation was racially motivated, or whether Deters will seek the hate crime charges in the case.  

• Major hotel company Winegardner and Hammons, Inc, and Eagle Realty, the real estate arm of Cincinnati-based insurance giant Western & Southern, yesterday received permission from the city’s Historic Conservation Board to go ahead with plans to turn the former Anna Louise Inn near Lytle Park downtown into a luxury hotel and restaurant. That approval comes after a number of aesthetic changes to the plans suggested at a conservation board meeting last month. Eagle purchased  the Anna Louise Inn after a protracted battle with Cincinnati Union Bethel, which had run a women’s shelter out of the building for more than a century. CUB had applied for state tax credits to help fund a renovation of the building. Western & Southern challenged the shelter’s receipt of those credits in court, arguing that the area wasn’t zoned for the building’s usage as a shelter. After lengthy court battles, CUB agreed to sell the building. The Anna Louise Inn recently relocated to Mount Auburn.

• Do you remember all those storms yesterday? Crazy stuff. All that wind and rain left more than 70,000 people in the region without power temporarily, according to Duke Energy. As of this morning, some 12,00 are still waiting for the lights to come back on. Some residents in North Avondale, Mount Healthy, North College Hill, Madisonville, Winton Woods, Fairfield and many other neighborhoods and suburbs in Ohio and Northern Kentucky remain without electricity. Some might have to wait days to have their power restored.

• GOP presidential politics in Ohio makes for some awkward situations, right? U.S. Sen. Rob Portman knows this all too well right now. Ohio’s Republican senator is currently polling behind his likely Democratic challenger, former governor Ted Strickland, in his battle for re-election in 2016. He needs a bit of help from his party, and, luckily, there’s a bright spot. Ohio will be a total political circus next year as both parties focus in on our state for the presidential election. That could play well for Portman, especially if Ohio Gov. John Kasich becomes the nominee.

Kasich’s presidential run would rally Republican voters around the state, an excitement that is almost sure to travel down-ballot and give Portman much-needed conservative votes. The only snag? Portman can’t really very wisely endorse Kasich. Portman has big ties to another GOP presidential hopeful, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has a much better chance of winning his party’s nomination at this point in the game. Portman needs Kasich, but he also doesn’t want to gamble on a long-shot candidate or burn his bridges with Bush. What’s a guy to do? Well, just stay quiet on the whole matter, it seems. Portman’s not endorsing anyone in the race. That’s tough luck for Kasich, who is having a bit of a hard time grabbing endorsements from some GOP bigwigs in Ohio, including Portman, Speaker of the House John Boehner and outspoken tea party U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan. U.S. Rep Steve Chabot, who represents Westwood, is also staying out of the primary endorsement game but puts Kasich’s chances among “the top five or six” GOP presidential nod hopefuls. Ouch.

That's it for me. Tweet at me. Email me. You know what's up.

by Nick Swartsell 07.13.2015 83 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Mother still searching for answers in police-involved shooting; three arrested for Fountain Square violence; can bike lanes ease economic and racial disparities?

Hey all! Was your All Star Game weekend rad? I spent the better part of mine far from the mass of ASG-related concerts and VIP invite-only parties, which are weird and a little like hosting a slightly unhip out-of-town guest who throws a party at your house for crusty old celebs on the other side of cultural relevancy (seriously, when was the last time you listened to a new Snoop Dogg track?) only you’re not invited. I’ll take Brighton or the Comet basement any day, though I hope if you hit up downtown you had a great time and got some autographs and free swag for your trouble.

Speaking of the ASG: If you’re trying to get into the actual game tomorrow and didn’t get your tickets a long time ago, it’ll cost ya now. Third-party tickets are running north of $800. That’s 100 $8 beers (is that the cost of a beer at the park? I'm sure it's something like that, right?) or a whole bunch of ballpark cheese coneys, just in case you’re keeping track.

• On to real news. About 30 protesters gathered with Erica Hicks-Woods and Rodriquis Woods, the parents of QuanDavier Hicks, outside Cincinnati Police Department District 1 headquarters in the West End Friday afternoon. Hicks’ parents drove from Atlanta for the rally and to ask questions of Cincinnati police about their son’s death. CPD officer Doris Scott shot the younger Hicks on a second-story stairwell near his Northside apartment after Hicks pointed a rifle at Scott and her partner, according to police. But Hicks-Woods says that version of events doesn’t add up to her, and she’s seeking more information. Hicks-Woods says police have barely spoken to her since the incident and that she’s been brushed off by the case’s lead investigator, who had promised her a meeting that day that was later cancelled. After rallying at the CPD station, Hicks-Woods spoke with Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, who promised a longer meeting over the weekend. She says she was also able to claim some of her son’s belongs which had previously been held, including a cellphone and a ring. An investigation into Hicks’ death is ongoing. CityBeat has requested all available public documents on the incident and will update the story as it unfolds.

• Authorities have arrested three men in connection with a beating that took place on Fountain Square July 4. Indiana resident Christopher McKnight was kicked and punched by a group of men during a period of unrest on the square. A video of the earlier portion of the incident shows McKnight wrestling against one man, then getting into a larger tussle with a few others before getting up, putting one of his shoes back on and walking back and forth in a crowd and raising his arms in an aggressive manner. Later, the altercation apparently continued, and McKnight sustained a concussion and other injuries requiring stitches. McKnight is white, and his assailants are black, which has led to suspicion that the attack was racially motivated. The responding officer on the scene initially described the attack as “anti-white” in police reports. CPD officials first disputed that assertion, but then said the incident may indeed have been a hate-crime. So far, police haven’t presented evidence or witness accounts supporting or disproving the hate crime accusation. Arrest documents for Raeshaun Hand, Antonio Tremble and Steven Montgomery, who were apprehended in connection with the attack, don’t show any indication they are charged with hate crimes at this point. The three face felonious assault charges. Police are looking for a fourth man suspected of participating in the incident as well.

• Here’s police item number three: Documents show the city administration offered CPD Chief Jeffrey Blackwell a year’s salary, or $136,000, a year extension of his health benefits, a $5,000 lump-sum payment and other concessions if he chose to leave the department. In return, Blackwell would have agreed not to sue the city, and both Blackwell and the city would have agreed not to make disparaging comments about each other to the media. Blackwell’s hypothetical departure made news earlier this summer when it was revealed the city had drawn up his walking papers. Blackwell said he wasn’t interested in leaving. City Manager Harry Black, who had the agreement drawn up, as well as Mayor John Cranley, both said they also wanted Blackwell to stay. The documents detailing the terms of the severance were released by the city at 5 p.m. last Friday, just before the city’s All-Star Game festivities kicked off in earnest. A Cincinnati Business Courier story questioned the timing of that release, saying it follows “a longstanding political and government strategy of pushing inconvenient news out at a time when few are paying attention.” Dang.

• The trial for the man accused of making threats to poison Speaker of the House John Boehner begins today. That charge carries a potential penalty of 10 years in prison. Michael Hoyt, 44, was a bartender at Boehner’s West Chester country club when he made threats to shoot Boehner or put something in his drink because he believed Boehner was the devil. Hoyt has a history of mental illness, and his attorneys have filed documents indicating they’ll be entering an insanity plea in the case.

• As Gov. John Kasich continues his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, questions are being raised about his administration’s transparency. Several groups concerned with government accountability have dinged Kasich’s record on the issue, saying Ohio’s government is much less transparent than it was when he took office. Among big red flags critics point to: the governor’s JobsOhio program, a private entity that runs on state liquor receipts in order to provide incentives to private companies looking to create jobs in Ohio. Fellow Republican Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost fought an unsuccessful battle with Kasich to be able to audit that organization last year. The administration, of course, has pushed back on charges that Kasich’s tenure has seen a more opaque state government. You can read more about Kasich’s record with government transparency in this Columbus Dispatch article.

• Two quick things nationally before I go: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, officially announced his candidacy for president today. Walker is among the frontrunners in the throng of guys running for the GOP nod. He’s a conservative darling who has won a bunch of props from far-righters for busting up bargaining rights for Wisconsin’s public employees, among other staunchly conservative policy moves.

• Finally, real fast: Here’s a fascinating article about how bike lanes might be able to increase racial and economic equity in communities. True? A bunch of bike-boosting b.s.? Check out the article and decide for yourself. I think it’s a pretty interesting concept and a good way to expand the conversation about alternate means of transportation and the wider economic implications thereof.

I’m out! Tweet. Email. Etc.

by Nick Swartsell 07.10.2015 86 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Want to rent a room in OTR for $500... a night?; county clerks in Kentucky buck same-sex marriage ruling; Ohio considers amending grand jury process

So let’s talk a little about news today.

In case you like, didn’t see the 500 MLB All-Star Game headlines on the Cincinnati Enquirer’s website today, well, that’s happening. Two-hundred-thousand people are headed downtown. Traffic will be bad. Parking will be worse. Prepare yourself.

All that headache is probably worth it if you own an apartment or house anywhere near downtown and are willing to let some strangers crash there. Average prices to stay in Over-the-Rhine or downtown are more than $500 on room rental site Airbnb. No, that’s not monthly. That’s for one night. It’s a 25-percent increase from prices two months ago. The spike is simple economics — there are few hotel rooms left in town after MLB reserved 95 percent of them during the days around the game. That’s left people searching around in the sharing economy, where costs range from the very affordable for a place out in the ‘burbs to a $4,999 a night three-bedroom house with sweeping views in Bellevue, Ky. That five grand is pretty much a down payment on a house in my neighborhood, but whatever you need to party, I guess.

• The city’s police force is out in full force for the festivities, patrolling downtown by the hundreds. With the nation’s eyes on Cincy, city leaders are stressing the need for calm, professional policing, especially after last weekend’s unrest downtown following a concert injured two officers and lead to several arrests. CPD will be getting some help as well from a mounted unit borrowed from the Columbus police. That unit, paid for by the private group the Cincinnati Police Foundation, will patrol downtown on horses.  

• Boone County Clerk Kenny Brown has joined 56 other county clerks in asking Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear to call a special session of the state’s legislature in order to take up a law creating religious exemptions to the Supreme Court’s recent decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. Brown, and other clerks across the state, say their religious freedoms are being violated because they’re being forced to license a practice they say is against their beliefs. Brown refused to issue any marriage licenses the day the decision came down last month but has since resumed the practice. Other clerks, however, have been more defiant. Casey Davis, who is the county clerk in uh… Casey County (Really? Really.) has refused to grant same-sex marriage licenses. Gov. Beshear met with Davis yesterday and told him to begin granting the licenses or step down from his job. Davis has refused to do either, saying he will go to jail for his religious beliefs if necessary.

• A panel responsible for recommending changes to Ohio’s constitution is considering reforms to the state’s grand jury system following controversial officer-involved shootings here and across the country. The Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission is currently mulling recommendations made by the Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations convened by Gov. John Kasich last year after the police shooting deaths of John Crawford III in Beavercreek and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, among others. Among those recommendations: requiring judicial oversight in grand jury proceedings, releasing some testimony from proceedings to improve the transparency of the process and requiring grand juries review all officer-involved incidents resulting in death or injury, unless other independent investigations are conducted. Currently, there is some question about whether those changes should be made at the constitutional or legislative level, with lawmakers debating what exactly determines how Ohio’s grand jury system should operate. But whether or not the issue is constitutional or a matter for lawmakers, advocates say, it’s a good time to reconsider the state’s grand jury methods. They haven’t been examined by lawmakers in about 60 years.

• Finally, in national news, after a contentious vote yesterday, South Carolina today officially took down the Confederate flag that had been flying over the grounds of the state capital for more than 50 years.The flag was removed from the dome of the building itself in 2000, and its final banishment from the grounds takes place after the horrific shooting of nine African American churchgoers in Charleston by white supremacist Dylann Roof.

That’s it for me. Enjoy this All Star weekend! Oh, and come join our wiffle ball home run derby at Rhinegeist on Sunday. It’s gonna be fun.

by Nick Swartsell 07.09.2015 87 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Police say beating was hate crime; state investigating landscaper over diversity fraud; South Carolina removes Confederate flag

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

Cincinnati police have asked Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters to pursue hate crime charges in connection with an attack on a man at Fountain Square Saturday night. That announcement marks a pronounced change of tone for the police, who earlier said the act did not appear to be racially motivated and that an officer on the scene who called the incident “anti-white” spoke in error. Twenty-seven-year-old Christopher McKnight, who is white, was attacked by several men, all black, following a period of unrest on Fountain Square in which two officers were injured and several arrests were made. Video of the incident taken from a Metro bus appears to show McKnight engaged in a one-on-one fight with another individual at first; soon, however, others also join in. One teen in a red shirt is shown trying to keep others from ganging up on McKnight, dragging another attacker off of him at one point. Soon, though, several teens attack McKnight, who is sometimes on the defensive, other times seen throwing punches. A couple minutes into the video, McKnight is seen getting up, putting one of his shoes back on and stalking back and forth along the sidewalk unaccosted by the crowd, eventually raising his arms in a challenging manner. He then walks out of frame of the camera. The video does not show what started the fight or an apparently later altercation that left McKnight bloodied on the sidewalk. Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell has said he’s recommending Deters pursue the hate crime charge against McKnight’s unidentified attackers. No suspects have been arrested in the incident.

• The national office of the NAACP has filed a U.S. District Court lawsuit against former leadership of Cincinnati’s local chapter, advancing long-running controversy over the city’s branch of the civil rights organization. The drama started when Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman resigned as president last year. Ishton Morton stepped in to take his place, but the national NAACP suspended Morton, his wife and another member, Lettie Reid, from the organization, saying they weren’t focused on civil rights work. The NAACP lawsuit alleges that the three have continued to present themselves as local NAACP leaders despite the fact they are no longer members of the organization, conducting fundraising and spending the branch’s money without national authorization. The national group has asked a federal judge to yank incorporation from Cincinnati’s chapter and order its former leaders, including one-time president Ishton Morton, to pay $300,000 in damages. Morton and his allies say the national office is trying to dictate local affairs at the Cincinnati branch, and he’s vowed to fight the lawsuit. There’s a deep political element in the fight: Some within the local chapter have bristled at the rightward drift of the branch, which started under Smitherman and saw the civil right group allying with staunch conservative groups like the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes. Critics say the chapter’s activities in that time have drifted away from civil rights advocacy. Backers, however, say the branch is reflective of local wishes and that the national office is engaging in “voter suppression” by trying to dictate who leads the chapter.

• The state is investigating Newtown-based Evans Landscaping over allegations it has been abusing grants and other programs designed for minority-owned businesses. The company is also entangled in lawsuits around those allegations, which were filed by another company called Ergon Site Construction. An initial suit by Evans claims that Ergon owed the company $275,000 for work done on a contract. Ergon counter-sued, saying Evans was using the minority-owned Ergon to get minority contracts through the state and that the company kept state money meant for Ergon. In the midst of that fight, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Evans’ Newtown location Tuesday. Law enforcement officials would not comment on the reasons for the raid or whether it is related to fraud charges against Evans.

• So that was all super-heavy news. Here’s something less so. For $35 bucks, you can ride a zip line over The Banks. The zip line will go from an 80-foot platform in front  of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to a shorter platform near the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum. It will be open starting Saturday at 11 a.m. and will go until 5 p.m. that day. The line will run Sunday and Monday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon and then again from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Who’s going to do this with me? It sounds awesome.

• There is a lot of worry in Cincinnati surrounding the recent wave of shootings, which have spiked significantly over last year’s low numbers. But Cincinnati isn’t the only city experiencing increases in violence, and as its homicide numbers remain steady, other cities are seeing sharp increases. Among them is Milwaukee, which has seen 80 murders so far this year — double the 39 it had this time last year. In Baltimore, which has also seen a big spike in gun violence and deaths, the increase has led to the dismissal of the city’s police commissioner. Other cities, including St. Louis and New Orleans, are also experiencing big increases in murders. But social scientists are quick to point out that these spikes seem smaller in context to recent history. Even today’s increased numbers, which are only happening in certain cities, are still much lower than violent crime’s peak in the early 1990s. Experts have a variety of explanations for the mini-surge in violence in Cincinnati and elsewhere. Crime always picks up some in the summer, law enforcement officials note. Also, violent gun crime and murders have been so low in some cities like New York, which clocked its lowest murder rate in 50 years last year, that any increase looks big. Other experts point to the influence of drugs, weak gun laws or other explanations for the increasing violence.

• Finally, lawmakers in South Carolina voted last night to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state house there. The move comes in the wake of the shooting deaths of nine black church goes in Charleston at the hands of white supremacist Dylann Roof. Roof displayed the flag prominently on his vehicle and elsewhere.

That’s it for me. Tweet. Email. Etc.

by Nick Swartsell 07.07.2015 89 days ago
Posted In: News, Police at 01:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Officers Charged with Covering Up Accident for Controversial Cop

Sgt. Andrew Mitchell, involved in the 2011 shooting of David "Bones" Hebert, was allegedly removed from crash scene by other officers

Two Cincinnati Police Officers have been charged in the cover up of a car accident involving a third officer, Sgt. Andrew Mitchell. Mitchell was the same officer who shot and killed local musician David “Bones” Hebert in Northside in 2011, according to a source within the department.

According to court documents filed Saturday, Mitchell was off duty and driving his personal vehicle, a Honda Odyssey, on West McMicken Avenue in Fairview at 5 a.m. when he ran into a pole. Afterward, Officers Jason Cotterman and Sgt. Richard Sulfsted concealed Mitchell from witnesses, helped him get home and did not fully investigate the accident, according to charges pending against them in Hamilton County Municipal court.

Sulfsted was the supervisor on duty at the time. 

Both Cotterman and Sulfsted face multiple counts of obstructing justice and dereliction of duty. They’re expected in court July 16. Mitchell faces charges in relation to the accident, including reckless operation of a motor vehicle.

“Resulting from an internal Cincinnati Police Department investigation, three Cincinnati Police officers have been arrested and had their police powers suspended pending the outcome of court proceedings, which are now underway,” City Manager Harry Black said in a memo released today.

The memo reveals that the incident was reported to CPD’s internal investigation unit the next day, and that law enforcement officials and prosecutors have reviewed the case for months.

The accident and subsequent cover-up charges raise questions that have yet to be addressed as Cincinnati Police continue their investigation, including the nature of Mitchell’s activities that night along West McMicken Avenue, his fellow officers’ motivations for the alleged cover-up and why Mitchell has remained on the force following other questionable situations in his past service.

Police haven't responded to multiple requests for comment on the charges, and a voicemail box for CPD's public information office is full, according to an automated message. CityBeat has filed public records requests for more information on the incident.

Mitchell's shooting of Hebert in 2011 was controversial, causing a number of protests and investigations in Cincinnati. The shooting also led to a 2012 wrongful death lawsuit against the Cincinnati Police Department. That lawsuit claimed Hebert was complying with instructions given by an investigating officer when he was shot and killed by Mitchell in Northside. The suit also claimed excessive force was used and that Mitchell “acted intentionally, recklessly, wantonly, and with deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of Mr. Hebert.”

Mitchell shot Hebert after officers responded to a 911 call around 3 a.m. alleging that Hebert had robbed and assaulted an intoxicated man with a pirate sword. Hebert was located sitting on a sidewalk on Chase Avenue about 10 minutes later. During subsequent questioning, officers say Hebert drew a knife and moved toward an investigating officer, causing Mitchell to believe the officer’s life was in danger. Mitchell shot Hebert twice, killing him.

Independent and police investigation into the shooting found that responding officers, including Mitchell, got too close to Hebert and did not have a plan for engaging him, a violation of CPD procedure. Reports show that responding officers barely spoke with each other about the situation before engaging Hebert. Despite the fact he didn’t follow procedures, three internal investigations cleared Mitchell of wrongdoing. 

That wasn’t the only controversial incident involving Mitchell, however. In January of 2008, he was the subject of a civil rights suit after he allegedly used a taser improperly against a teenager. Mitchell allegedly tased Christopher Bauer from his police cruiser after he asked Bauer to stop. However, the teen was wearing headphones and a hoodie and didn’t hear the command. Bauer’s suit says he fell face forward and sustained substantial injuries during the incident. Mitchell was eventually placed on a 40-hour suspension after exhausting appeals within the department’s disciplinary system.

CityBeat will update this story as more information becomes available.
by Nick Swartsell 07.07.2015 89 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

CPD officers charged with cover-up; Cincy number one for recreation; OH pot farms would be unionized, legalization effort says

Hey all, here’s the news today.

Two Cincinnati police officers face charges of covering up a car wreck involving fellow officer Sgt. Andrew Mitchell. Mitchell crashed his car March 22 on West McMicken Ave. According to dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice charges filed in Hamilton County Municipal Court, officers Jason Cotterman and Richard Sulfsted acted to remove Mitchell from the scene and hide his involvement from investigators after that accident. Mitchell now faces criminal charges, including reckless operation of a motor vehicle.

• It’s too early to tell if an attack that took place on Fountain Square July 4 was racially motivated, police said during a news conference yesterday. The incident took place during a period of unrest in which a crowd at a post-fireworks concert allegedly threw bottles and fireworks at officers, resulting in increased police presence including officers in riot gear. Just after that confrontation nearby, a man was beaten by a group of teens and young adults. Originally, responding officer Alicia Essert indicated the assault on Christopher McKnight, a white man from Albany, Indiana, was a hate crime. McKnight suffered a broken nose, facial lacerations and other minor injuries after an altercation with a group of teens and young adults. Essert reported the incident as “anti-white” because the teens were black, Cincinnati Police Capt. Mike Neville told reporters yesterday. He says that’s an incorrect assertion, and that officials are working to investigate what happened before calling the incident a hate crime.

• Let’s talk a little bit more about Transdev, the company tapped to run the Cincinnati streetcar. The private French transit operator has its U.S. offices in Chicago and employs about 18,000 people here. It runs four other rail projects around the country. Transdev only runs one other streetcar project, however — the nation’s largest in New Orleans. The company has overseen ridership increases on that transit project and even an expansion of its route, something streetcar boosters looking to take the trolley uptown will find encouraging. Here in Cincinnati, Transdev will be on the hook for any cost overruns the $4 million a year project incurs, since the contract currently being negotiated between the company and the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority is a fixed-cost deal.

* Cincinnati is the best city in the country for recreation, according to personal finance website Wallethub. Researchers there took into account climate, recreational costs, quality of parks and the number of recreational facilities in 100 cities to arrive at its rankings. Cincy ranked high in most categories, though it took a big hit in climate — we're 58. Big shocker there. But otherwise, we shine when it comes to our parks and other recreational opportunities. Cincy has the third-most music venues per capita, for instance, and ranked number one in overall number of entertainment and recreational opportunities. Pretty cool.

• The three potential marijuana farms in Southwestern Ohio proposed by weed-legalization effort RepsonsibleOhio would be staffed by union workers, owners of those farms said yesterday. Former Cincinnati Bengal and current Arizona Cardinal Frostee Rucker, one of those owners, promised that the farms would protect workers’ rights at a news conference yesterday. Rucker and other owners signed an agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers union at that event. Owners of three potential marijuana farms in central Ohio have signed a similar agreement. The group, which is looking to put a state constitutional amendment on the November ballot, is proposing legalizing marijuana for anyone 21 and up, and making vending licenses available similar to liquor licenses. However, commercial growth of marijuana would be limited to 10 farms across the state owned by investors in the initiative. That’s caused cries of monopoly from a diverse array of critics spanning conservative state lawmakers and officials to other legalization groups.

• Attorneys for six Baltimore police officers charged in the police custody death of Freddy Gray are asking courts to move their trials, arguing that it’s impossible for the officers to get a fair trial in Baltimore. Gray died after sustaining severe spinal cord injuries in the back of a police van in April. After his death, large-scale civil unrest broke out in Baltimore and protests sprung up around the country. Because of the continued tension in the city, attorneys for the officers say it isn’t possible to assemble an unbiased jury pool in time for their October trials. Officers face various charges of murder, manslaughter and other lesser crimes.

by Nick Swartsell 07.06.2015 90 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

SORTA votes on streetcar contract; unrest downtown; map of rental affordability crisis

Good morning y’all. I hope your holiday weekend was as crazy as mine in all the good ways a weekend can be crazy without being crazy in all the bad ways a weekend can be. One BAD way your July 4 extravaganza can be crazy is when you have to wrestle a strange naked man off your porch. Yes, that happened to me this weekend. Our country really needs better mental health care systems. But enough about that. Let’s get right to the news thing.

Just a bit ago, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority board voted to award the Cincinnati streetcar operating contract to Transdev, a Chicago-based company that submitted the winning turnkey bid to run and staff the project. That bid, which came in at $4 million for the first year of operations, proposed using non-union employees instead of SORTA personnel. Another bid utilizing unionized folks came in at $4.7 million, which was over the city’s $4.2 million budget for the project.

SORTA is making the decision because Cincinnati City Council could not come to agreement about who should operate the streetcar due to the price difference. The Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents SORTA’s employees, tried unsuccessfully to convince Hamilton County courts to make council decide which bid should be selected, but a judge rejected their suit. Council’s five Democrats are pro-union, as is Mayor John Cranley. Cranley offered an extra $2 million toward the project if the union contract was selected, but some Democrats on council said they were worried that amount wasn’t enough to keep the project running at full capacity. Councilman Wendell Young voted against the union bid, citing those concerns and depriving the Dems of the fifth vote they needed to approve that bid.

• Here’s some more bad July 4 crazy. There was a rash of unrest on Fountain Square Saturday night as revelry turned into some fights. Cincinnati Police were called in and a group of 50 or more in the crowd became even more agitated, police say, throwing bottles and fireworks at officers. That in turn led to more police presence, this time in riot gear. Two officers were injured during the confrontation. Seven people were arrested. One person was hospitalized after he was beaten badly by a group of young men. It is unclear what connection, if any, the man had to the fights occurring in the area. Police are investigating that incident. Meanwhile, the biggest question local media can muster about the violence appears only to be what this means for next week’s MLB All-Star Game. Awesome.

• Where the ladies at? In the Cincinnati startup world, I mean. Women aren’t nearly as well-represented in the tech and startup industries here, despite being, you know, half the population. Business incubator The Brandery, for instance, had no females in its 2014 class, a problem the organization is looking to remedy for upcoming years, according to this story. It’s not just a problem for Cincinnati, of course — the world of entrepreneurs is famously male-centric. But there are some local efforts happening to change that here.

• Things are going to get interesting in Hamilton County in 2016, and not just because of the presidential election. There’s a big showdown brewing for a couple county commissioner seats. Both Democrat Todd Portune and Republican Greg Hartmann are up for re-election, and both could have some serious challengers.

Let’s zoom in on what’s likely to be the more interesting of the two races: State Rep. Denise Driehaus has signaled she’s carefully considering a run against Hartmann, who angered some voters with last year’s icon tax decision cutting renovations for landmark Music Hall out of a sales tax increase on last year’s ballot. Driehaus looks like she’ll be a strong candidate, but Hartmann has plenty of support, especially from the Hamilton County GOP and right wingers like anti-tax group COAST. He also has some donors with deep pockets. Hamilton County GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou has been touting a recent fundraising event for Hartmann that raked in $250,000 in a single night. That’s big bucks. County Dems, though, say Driehaus won’t need that much cash to topple Hartmann, who will be fighting the tides of demographic change in the county. Republican electorate here has been eroded in recent years, with a younger, more diverse and generally Democratic-leaning population trickling into Hamilton County as Republican voters head out to the ‘burbs.

• More bad July 4 crazy. Someone vandalized Serpent Mound, the ancient Native American burial site in Adams County. It appears someone basically took a big ole truck and did some donuts on the mound. Officials with the historic site say it will take extensive work to restore the damage. The mound is internationally recognized for its historic and cultural importance.

• Finally, I feel like I link you, my dear readers, to a map at least once a week. I hope they’re as interesting to you as they are to me. This one is pretty insane, I think. It’s been put together by the Urban Institute and technically shows rental affordability in every county in the U.S. compared to the national average. The bigger picture? It shows the country’s steadily-intensifying affordable housing crisis, especially for very low-income renters. Even though we have relatively low rents here in Cincy (unless you’re trying to move to Over-the-Rhine, am I right?), that crisis has hit home. In Hamilton County last year, there were 34 affordable units for every 100 low-income families. That’s better than the national average of 28 units per 100 families, but it’s still striking. Even more striking is how much worse that would be without various types of government rental assistance: Hamilton County would only have 10 units of affordable housing for every 100 families that needs them in the market without those subsidies. Yowza.

That’s it for me. Tweet at me. Email me. But for god's sake if you come to hang out on my porch keep your clothes on.

by Nick Swartsell 07.02.2015 94 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Macy's dumps Trump; Ohio dumps PARCC test; will the state change the way it draws congressional districts?

What’s up Cincy? No morning news tomorrow so I can chase down sources for a longer piece I’m working on. I’ll also be pre-gaming patriotism in preparation for the Fourth. But let me give you a brief rundown of a few things happening around town and beyond before I go.

Locally-based Macy’s Department Stores dumped the Trump yesterday. Presumptive GOP presidential candidate and long-running punchline Donald Trump said some choice words about immigrants during his campaign announcement, which has inflamed a firestorm of controversy. Trump suggested that folks from Mexico are criminals and etc., etc., all the tired crap you hear from people who no one should be listening to. As a result, Macy’s has announced it will no longer carry Trump’s menswear line, breaking the hearts of I’m sure dozens of Cincinnati-area males who aspire to the Donald’s dizzying levels of douche-baggery. Trump released a statement on Instagram (of course) saying that the split was his idea and that Macy's is only a small portion of the brisk business he does selling ties that look like something a used car salesman would wear to a bachelor party.

• So is this kinda slimy? The vendors who usually sell you your pre-game Reds shirts, foam fingers, socks, underwear, and what-have-you won’t be allowed to do so during the MLB All-Star Game. As a condition of landing the big game, the city had to agree to limit the sale of merchandise between July 8 and July 15 in an area about a mile around the ballpark. Ticket sellers will also be prohibited from selling in the area during the All-Star Game period. Sellers will still be allowed to vend peanuts and water, however, a concession the city was able to wring from MLB. Some vendors aren’t happy about the arrangement, saying it will cut them out of one of the biggest potential money-making events in the city.

• Another state budget note: One of the provisions in the new financial plan has the state of Ohio dropping its relationship with Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, the company that was administering standardized tests for Ohio schools. The so-called PARCC test rollout, which has been associated with the new federal Common Core educational standards, has been marked by criticism and tech problems. Next year, the Ohio Department of Education will go with another company, the American Institutes for Research, which already develops some public school tests for Ohio. The change won’t affect the state’s implementation of Common Core, state officials say, though lawmakers have called for less overall testing time for students.

• Ever wonder why Ohio works the way it does politically? Here’s a pretty good breakdown of gerrymandering, or the process of redrawing electoral districts for political advantage. The data shows the way in which parties can arrange districts to win more seats than they get votes. Both parties are guilty of the practice, but in Ohio, it’s Republicans who generally benefit. And that benefit has grown over time. In the period between 1982 and 1990, Republican congressional candidates got 49 percent of the popular vote and subsequently occupied 49 percent of Ohio’s seats in Congress. Fast forward to the time between 2012 and now. Republican congressional candidates get about 55 percent of the popular vote in the state, but occupy 75 percent of the state’s available congressional seats. But a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing citizen panels instead of state lawmakers to draw those districts could mean changes for the way the district-drawing process is handled, putting it in the hands of regular citizens instead of politicians.

• So. You may be wondering what the difference is between a Gov. John Kasich presidential run and the campaign fortunes of say, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Both are kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel right now when it comes to polls and shots at winning the GOP nod. But this pretty excellent analysis of the race, and of the positions GOP guvs running for office find themselves in, brings in some good points, showing that Kasich isn’t as badly-positioned as one might imagine compared to a candidate like Christie or Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. It’s an interesting look at the politics behind governors running for president, and also kind of a window into how big of a mess the Republican field for the presidential nomination is right now.

That’s it for me! I hope your holiday weekend is great. Tweet at me, e-mail, you know the drill.

by Nick Swartsell 07.01.2015 95 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Noon News and Stuff

Drug cops seize $11K from man at local airport; Kasich cuts ed funding, keeps strict abortion regulations in budget; Portman's problems

Hey hey all! Hope your week is going well as we speed toward what I’m sure is going to be an awesome July 4 weekend. Before we get to news, I wanted to welcome our new staff writer and news reporter Natalie Krebs, who starts today. Natalie comes to us after working in the Texas Senate. She has a master's in journalism from the University of Texas and also completed the prestigious News21 program at Arizona State University. She’s done work for great investigative magazine the Texas Observer and other publications, and we’re super-excited to have her here. You’ll be seeing her byline start popping up in the next couple weeks.

On to news. A new report in the Washington Post says that local law enforcement agencies seized more than $11,000 from a young black man at CVG airport last year under federal asset-forfeiture laws. Those laws allow agencies to seize money associated with drug trafficking or other major crimes. Drug Enforcement Agency task force members took the money from Charles Clarke despite the fact that they didn’t find any drugs, guns or other illegal substances on him. Clarke, who smokes marijuana occasionally, reportedly had the smell of the drug on his belongings at the time, which was enough along with his one-way ticket and inability to account for the money’s source for cops to stop him and seize his stuff.

The airport’s police force and the Covington Police Department were the two agencies involved in the seizure, but a total of 11 local agencies want a piece of the money, including the Cincinnati Police Department. That’s due to the way DEA task forces are set up and the way they disperse asset forfeiture money. The agency defends the practice, saying it helps fund vital local law enforcement efforts across the country. The Post’s story is a pretty incredible read and definitely something worth knowing about.

• In lighter-hearted news: Soon, the enormous, 20-story ghost of a 19th century man will visit downtown Cincinnati every night. Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to alarm you. The giant specter will be the image of a vintage Cincinnati Red Stockings player, which will be projected onto Carew Tower in the evenings to celebrate the upcoming Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Festivities around the game will take place July 10-14. The haunting… err, I mean… celebration starts tonight with a ceremony at 9:30 p.m. After that, the display will be up every night at that time until 5 a.m. through July 15.

• On to state stuff. Gov. John Kasich used his line-item veto power to cut up the state Senate’s budget yesterday, nixing 44 provisions from the financial plan as he signed it into law. Among those provisions, he cut $78 million from public education funding by eliminating a pay-back for schools that once received money from what was called the tangible personal property tax. That tax has since been eliminated, but lawmakers have carved out the reimbursement to assure that schools continue to get adequate levels of funding. Local schools like Princeton and Mason received millions from the TPP funds and have protested their elimination. Kasich and the Ohio Board of Education say they haven’t nailed down which schools will see decreases in funding from the move. Kasich has argued that the TPP money mostly went to schools in high-income areas that could afford to provide more local support and that the money from the program could be better used to support low-income districts. Kasich tried to adjust the state-funding formula in his version of the budget, but that attempt was punted by state legislators.

• Among the things Kasich didn’t veto yesterday: new abortion restrictions slipped into the budget last-minute. You can read all about that situation in this week’s feature news story. Here’s a little preview: Those regulations could threaten Cincinnati’s last clinic that provides abortions.

• One thing the legislature and governor didn’t tackle in the flurry of legislative activity: charter school reform. As we’ve discussed in past articles, there are calls for the reform of Ohio’s charter school system on both sides of the aisle. But it won’t happen just yet. Lawmakers have tabled efforts at reform of the system until September. Lawmakers cite major changes to a controversial bill that would have adjusted the charter system, saying they need more time than the rapidly approaching summer break allows them. Critics of charters say lack of accountability and big issues with use of funds, testing and attendance records show that the charter system in the state needs to be reworked.

• It’s a big day for statewide news. Ahead of today’s deadline, marijuana legalization group ResponsibleOhio yesterday delivered nearly 700,000 signatures to Secretary of State Jon Husted. If enough signatures are valid and the initiative makes it onto the ballot, voters will decide whether to green-light the group’s constitutional amendment creating 10 legalized marijuana grow sites around the state run by ResponsibleOhio investors. Possession of marijuana would be legal for anyone over 21, and licenses would be issued for sale of the drug. No other commercial growers would be permitted, however, a detail that has created controversy. Meanwhile, state lawmakers have introduced their own ballot proposal that would make it much tougher for such so-called constitutional monopolies to pass. That law would more than likely invalidate ResponsibleOhio’s amendment. Voters will have a strange and potentially confusing choice at the ballots come November.

• Here’s an interesting read on U.S. Sen. Rob Portman as he runs for re-election. Portman’s taking a shellacking in the polls right now against his presumed Democratic challenger, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. Despite being the incumbent in a state with a Republican governor, Portman is down six points to Strickland in two recent polls. Strickland still has to make it through a Democratic primary, where he faces Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, but he’s opened up a comfortable lead against the young councilman. He’ll also have to contend with Portman’s formidable $8 million campaign war chest, the largest of any GOP Senate candidate seeking 2016 reelection. The above article explores the reasons why Portman is floundering right now in his race — reasons that may be beyond his campaign’s control.

I’m out! Tweet at me about all the fun stuff to do this July 4. Or, you know, email me your boring news tips. I love em.




by Nick Swartsell 10.02.2015 67 hours ago
Posted In: News at 10:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Will the Freedom Center get a charter school?; Sheriff Jones won't run for Boehner's seat; Vatican clarifies on Kim Davis visit

Hey all! Here’s a brief news rundown for your Friday. Let’s get to the weekend already.

Is a charter school coming to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center? It could happen, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Carpe Diem is a charter sponsored by Cincinnati Public Schools that operates out of Aiken High School. The school has expressed interest in opening up another CPS-sponsored charter in the Freedom Center, though nothing official has been planned yet. The charter’s CEO has said he’d be interested in having the school open as soon as next fall, though CPS has yet to make a decision about whether it wants another charter, saying such a school would need to perform as well or better than traditional public schools in the city. CPS currently sponsors two charters. Charters in Cincinnati and Ohio in general have a mixed record over the past decade, with some performing as well or better than public schools while many others have lagged and been shut down for performance issues or ethics violations.

• What’s the most Instagramed spot in Ohio? It’s the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, according to a review of social media data by travel website busbud.com. The site looked at which attractions in every state generated the most hashtags on the popular, Facebook-owned image-posting social media app. The zoo joins the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the White House in D.C. and the Space Needle in Seattle as one of the most popular spots for ‘gramming in the country. I would have guessed Washington Park, but yeah. Pretty cool for the zoo.

• Apologies in advance for fans of Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones, because I have some disappointing news for you. The staunchly anti-immigrant sheriff, who has gained a national profile due to his aggressive stance on conservative issues and appearances on talk shows discussing those views, won’t be running for U.S. Rep. John Boehner’s congressional seat. As we reported last week, Jones had indicated he was interested in campaigning for the spot, which Boehner vacated Friday after years of fighting with congressional conservatives as speaker of the house. But Jones has since announced that, while Congress could “use someone like him,” he’s better off staying in Butler County.

• A Chicago-based investor in ResponsibleOhio’s plan to legalize marijuana in the state has backed out, according to the group. Meanwhile, Youngstown-based Brian Kessler, whose father invented the Hula-Hoop, is in to take his place. Kessler is now one of the 22 investors who have gone public about their role funding ResponsibleOhio’s drive to pass an amendment to the Ohio constitution that would legalize marijuana and create 10 constitutionally mandated grow sites across the state. The identity of another 30 investors has not been made public by the group.

• So everyone got all riled up about the Pope’s visit with Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis last week. Now the Vatican is clarifying that meeting... kind of. Davis, you’ll remember, refused to issue marriage licenses even in the wake of this summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the country. Davis was eventually found in contempt of court and went to jail for her refusal on religious grounds to issue the licenses. Fast forward a bit. Davis recently revealed that when the pope was here in the U.S. a couple weeks back, she was granted a 15-minute visit with the religious leader. This was something of a shock to many progressives, who were still applauding Pope Francis' statements before Congress on climate change and income inequality. Many, of course, took the visit as a signal that the pope agreed with Davis on her stand. Now, however, the Vatican is saying that the visit was requested by Davis and doesn’t mean that the pope supported her point of view or her actions. Annnnnd… that’s about all the church said. So. Hm.

• Finally, you’ve certainly already heard about the horrific school shooting in Oregon yesterday, but it seems strange not to mention it in a news round up. So here’s a story with what we know so far. As your humble morning news blogger, can I suggest we simply pause to feel for those involved and not instantly begin fighting about this? No? OK.

That’s it for me. Twitter, email, etc. You know what’s up.

by Nick Swartsell 10.01.2015 3 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

City passes paternity leave plan; Denise Driehaus to run for county commish; state passes "ban the box" legislation

Hey hey! Good morning Cincy. How’s it going? Here’s what’s up in the news today.

Yesterday the city officially announced the results of a long-awaited study about disparities in the companies it hires to take on taxpayer-funded projects as well as several measures it plans to take to address those inequities. According to the Croson Study, only about 2.7 percent of the city’s contracts went to black-owned businesses and only about 6.2 percent went to businesses owned by women. This despite the fact that black and women owned businesses in the city have the capacity to do 20 percent of that work, the study says. You can read more about the study and the city’s proposed solutions, which include race and gender-based contracting requirements, in our online story yesterday. City contracts represent more than $1 billion in spending, and city officials say getting that pie split up more equitably could go a long way toward addressing the deep economic inequalities in the city.

• Cincinnati City Council yesterday passed legislation that gives all city employees six weeks of parental leave after they have or adopt a baby, including 28 days at 70 percent of their pay. Council members Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson proposed the new paternity leave policy, which the city administration estimates will cost about $225,000 a year. Council voted 7-2 to pass the proposal. Seelbach, Simpson and other backers say the slight cost to the city is worth it, saying it’s the right thing to do and that it will help the city recruit the best and brightest employees. Council members Kevin Flynn and Amy Murray voted against the measure, in part because they believe leave offered to employees should be decided through negotiations with the city employees union.

• One of Cincinnati’s iconic but currently empty churches will be born again as an event center, developers say. Towne Properties, which has its headquarters in a portion of the building, will redevelop the former Holy Cross Monastery, which overlooks the city from its lofty perch in Mount Adams, turning it into an upscale space for weddings and other events.  The church has been empty since 1977, and Towne has owned it since 1980. The developer has been puzzled over what to do with the property, considering a hotel or office space for the building. But none of that worked out on paper and so the historic 12,000-square-foot church, built in 1873, has remained empty except for some pretty amazing art exhibits that have popped up from time to time there. I remember seeing Shinji Turner-Yamamoto’s beautiful Global Tree Project at the monastery back in the day. It’s an incredible place.

• Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus has officially announced she’s running for Hamilton County commissioner against sitting Republican commish Greg Hartmann next year. Driehaus, a Clifton resident with a long history of service in local and state politics, is prohibited by term limits from running for another stint as state rep. Hartmann first got the commissioners job in 2008 when he ran unopposed for the post, replacing outgoing commish Pat DeWine. Before that, he mounted an unsuccessful bid for Ohio Secretary of State.

• The Ohio General Assembly yesterday passed so-called “ban the box” legislation that strikes questions about prospective employees’ criminal records from public job applications. The state struck a similar question from its job applications in June, but now an application for any public job in Ohio won’t have questions about an applicant’s criminal history. Proponents say that will help ex-offenders get a new start and decrease the chances they’ll end up in prison again. You can read about the ban the box effort in our in-depth feature story on the subject published in June.

• Finally, in national news, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is raising nearly as much money as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the two duel it out in the Democratic primary for the 2016 presidential nomination. Sanders raised $26 million in the last fundraising quarter to presumed frontrunner Clinton’s $28 million. That’s kind of crazy because Sanders is an independent, not a Democrat, and he’s been running around for years telling people he’s a socialist. Not exactly the most obvious path to the White House. Clinton, meanwhile, is named Clinton and has the vast fundraising network of her former president husband Bill and plenty of backers from her time as a senator. But then, when the top GOP contender for the presidential nomination is Donald Trump, all the rules we all thought were well understood and set in stone go flying out the window.

That’s it for me! Email or tweet at me and let me know if Washington Park is open to us commoners (aka the public) today. You know what I'm talking about if you passed by yesterday.

by Nick Swartsell 09.30.2015 4 days ago
Posted In: News at 02:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

City Unveils Efforts to Address Contracting Disparities

Croson Study reveals that minority and women owned businesses receive few contracts, have capacity to do much more

City of Cincinnati officials today unveiled the final draft of a long-awaited study of gender and racial disparities in the city’s contracting practices, as well as ordinances that might address some of those inequalities, including race and gender based requirements for contractors.

The so-called Croson Study shows that between 2009 and 2013, black-owned businesses were awarded only 2.7 percent of the city’s contracts, totaling about $5 million, despite blacks making up more than 45 percent of the city’s population. Businesses owned by women fared only slightly better during the study’s time frame, getting only 6.2 percent of the city’s contracts. Eighteen percent of busineses in Cincinnati are owned by blacks, and nearly 30 percent are owned by women.

Mayor John Cranley cast the report as a positive step toward more equitable contracting for the city.

“We’re finally here after a long amount of hard work,” Cranley said during a ceremony today at City Hall featuring a wide array of about two dozen city officials, faith leaders, members of the business community, activists and others. “We have a lot of great things happening in the city, but we’re not perfect, and, clearly, the city’s procurement process has not reflected the diversity of our city.” 

Councilman Wendell Young also praised the study, but sounded a much more somber note.

“Since we’ve confirmed what we already know, how hard are we willing to work to address the problems?” he asked. “It’s true that the city of Cincinnati is making great progress. It’s also true that a significant part of this community is not feeling that progress. Cincinnati has many distinctions that we’re not proud of."

Young citing the city’s sky-high infant mortality, childhood poverty and black unemployment rates.

“Today we’re at the point where we have the road map and the confirmation. From today on we find out if we have the political will, the ability, the skill and whether the work we do can make a difference. We won’t be the first, but we’re going to find a way to make this work. And if we can’t do that, heaven help us all.”

The report also revealed that 70 percent of the city's $1.2 billion in prime contracts went to a small group of businesses, a fact that many on city council found disturbing.

Councilman Christopher Smitherman said that fact should make not just minority and female-owned businesses angry, but anyone who has competed for a city contract.

"That's one hell of a country club," he said.

Cranley touted steps the city has already taken toward diversifying its contracting, including recently establishing the city’s new Department of Economic Inclusion and making changes to its Small Business Enterprise (SBE) program. But he also said the Croson Study and its suggestions are huge parts of the solution.

The study makes several suggestions for improvements in the city’s contracting process on four different monetary levels, from under $5,000 to more than $250,000, on both the prime contract and subcontract levels. Some recommended solutions are based on race and gender categories, while others are neutral.

On the subcontracting level, Cincinnati City Council will consider ordinances which create a Minority Business Enterprise program and a Women Business Enterprise program, allowing such businesses to compete with each other for certain set-aside contracts.

On the much larger prime contracting level, businesses will be given points on some bids if they are at least 51 percent owned by minorities or women.

Some council members, including Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, want the city to go farther in ensuring better equity in awarding contracts at the $1 billion prime contracting level. Both Simpson and Councilman Chris Seelbach offered pointed questions about what more could be done at the prime contracting level to ensure a greater piece of that large pie goes to minority- and women-owned businesses.

The city usually awards prime contracts to companies, which then hire subcontractors. City Manager Harry Black pointed out that the city will make requirements for businesses winning prime bids as to the level of minority subcontractors they should hire. Businesses winning contracts with the city of more than $50,000 will be required to subcontract 17 percent black-owned businesses for construction work and 14 percent black-owned businesses for other services, and 14 and 16 percent businesses owned by women for those categories respectively.

One recommendation made by the Croson Study that the city has not yet considered is ending so-called master agreements, or contracts with companies that can be used by multiple city departments on separate projects and which can be subject to multi-year renewals without re-bidding.

“The city should eliminate the use of master agreements and follow the competitive bidding standards for all contracts,” the study states in its conclusion.

One point that every city official agrees upon, however, is that minority- and female-owned businesses are up to the task of doing more projects on taxpayers' behalf.

The study shows that black-owned businesses in the city have the capacity to take on up to 20 percent of the city’s contracts. Businesses owned by women see a similar capacity gap: The report shows female-owned businesses have the ability to tackle another 20 percent of the city’s contracts.

“To all my colleagues here, please do not use the word ‘capacity,’ " Smitherman said.

Though the report is clear, the details involved in increasing minority contracts awarded by the city are complex. Part of the complication comes from the legal realities around what the city can and can’t do to increase minority contracting.

The Croson Study gets its name from a U.S. Supreme Court case, City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson, in which the Virginia city was sued by a contractor over its contract diversity initiatives. The Supreme Court ruled Richmond’s setbacks of contracts for minority businesses unconstitutional and set a standard of strict scrutiny, the highest legal standard, for municipal contracting diversity programs.

That means that cities risk lawsuits if they don’t demonstrate a very clear need to enact gender- or race-specific contracting guidelines and cannot show that those guidelines are narrowly tailored to address disparities without discriminating against other businesses.

Cincinnati has already been through such a lawsuit in 2004, when Cleveland Construction Company unsuccessfully sued the city over its contracting diversity policies. The company claimed that the city’s Small Business Enterprise (SBE) program, which was used in part to score the bids from Cleveland and other companies, created unconstitutional racial and gender classifications and violated its rights to equal protection under the 14th Amendment. An initial decision from the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas agreed with that claim, and the city amended the race- and gender-related parts of its SBE program. The case went all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, which eventually ruled in favor of the city.

The Croson Study offers some protection from future lawsuits, say city officials and representatives from Mason Tillman Associates, which conducted the 338-page report. The report quantifies the extent of Cincinnati’s contracting diversity problems and puts forward recommendations, many poised to be passed by council, that are tailored to address them.

“It gives us a legal basis to do what we need to do to be a city that will work for everybody and not just for a few,” Cranley said.

by Natalie Krebs 09.30.2015 4 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Campbell County Schools superintendent retires after domestic violence charges; child poverty still a problem for Cincy; Kim Davis meets the Pope?

Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines. 

• Campbell County Schools Superintendent Glen Miller abruptly announced his retirement after he was charged with domestic violence. Miller has been on paid administrative leave since he was arrested last Wednesday night at his Erlanger home after his daughter called 911 to report that he has struck his wife in the head and neck. Miller told police his wife's injuries were a result of an accident, but his story didn't quite match his wife and daughter's versions. He was booked into Kenton County Detention Center and charged with domestic violence that same evening just after midnight and released the following afternoon. Miller has been superintendent of Campbell County Schools for four years. His retirement will go into effect November 1. In the meantime, Associate Superintendent Shelli Wilson will be placed in charge of the district. 

• Cincinnati State is considering a partnership with private testing and consulting firm Pearson to attempt to boost its enrollment and retention rates. The college seems to have hit a rough patch. Current enrollment is just below 10,000, 10 percent lower than a year ago, it faces a state-mandated tuition freeze and president O'dell Owens recently departed after tensions with the board of trustees. Cincinnati State is reportedly discussing a 10-year contract with Pearson that would give the company control of its $550,000 marketing and recruiting budget in exchange for 20 percent of students' tuition recruited above the college's quota of 4,000. If it goes through, this contract would be the first for the New York-based company, which earns much of its revenue through K-12 standardized test preparation. Given the college's not-so-great reputation for relying heavily on test scores, the college's faculty senate has urged the administration to wait on the contract until the results of spring recruitment are in. 

• Child poverty is down in Cincinnati, according to new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, but the rate is way above state and national averages. According to the survey, child poverty is down to 44.1 percent from 51.3 percent in 2012, but it's double the national average of 21.7 percent and near double the state average of 22.9 percent. City Health Commissioner Noble Maseru has suggested targeting the poorest zip codes first to begin to further bringing that number down, but no concrete plan has been put in place. 

• Infamous Rowan County clerk Kim Davis apparently secretly met with Pope Francis. According to Davis's lawyer, officials sneaked Davis and her husband, Joe, into the Vatican Embassy in Washington D.C. last Thursday afternoon where the Pope gave her rosary beads and told her to "stay strong." During his first visit to the U.S., Pope Francis did not publicly support Davis by name but instead stated that "conscious objection is a right that is a part of every human right." Davis spent time in the Carter County Detention Center for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She and her husband were conveniently already in Washington D.C. to accept an award from conservative group, the Family Research Council. 

• Cincinnati is a travel hotspot, or at least, "on the verge of a hip explosion," according to Forbes Travel Guide. According to the magazine, Cincinnati has a hilly landscape much like San Francisco's without the San Francisco prices, and the newly gentrified, or "revitalized," Over-the-Rhine is like Brooklyn before the hipsters took it over. Other reasons the third-largest city in Ohio makes "the perfect weekend getaway" include Skyline cheese coneys, a ton of German beers and Kentucky whiskeys to choose from and a "surprisingly impressive array of luxury hotel options." 

That's it for today! Email is nkrebs@citybeat.com, and I'd love to hear from you!            

by Nick Swartsell 09.29.2015 5 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sen. Mitch McConnell

Morning News and Stuff

Study finds gender, racial disparities in city contracting; Mount Auburn clinic will stay open pending appeal; Ziegler Park plan presented in OTR

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

A study covering the last five years of city of Cincinnati contracting found that the city hasn’t hired nearly as many minority and women-owned businesses as it should for taxpayer-funded jobs. The 338-page study on racial disparities, called the Croson Study, was conducted by outside researchers with public policy research firm Mason Tillman Associates. Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black said in a memo yesterday that the study reveals a “demonstrated pattern of disparity” in city contracting. He says ordinances are being drafted by the city administration to address those disparities. The study suggests both race and gender neutral fixes as well as those that rely on race and gender preferences. The latter are legally dicey: The city could face lawsuits over race and gender preferences in hiring, even if it has evidence that its current methods for ensuring equity in its contracting practices aren’t working.

• Cincinnati’s last remaining women’s health clinic that provides abortions will stay open as it appeals a decision by the Ohio Department of Health denying it a license. The Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn lost its license under a new state law slipped into this year’s budget that gives the ODH just 60 days after an application is received to renew a clinic’s license. In the past, it has taken the ODH more than a year to do so for the Cincinnati clinic. Planned Parenthood, which runs the facility, is suing the state over the law, which it says presents an undue burden on women seeking abortions. The Mount Auburn clinic would have to close Thursday if not for the appeal. If it shuts down, Cincinnati will become the largest metropolitan area in the country without direct access to an abortion provider. Another clinic in Dayton faces a similar situation, and if it also closed down, only seven clinics would remain in the state, and none would remain in Southwestern Ohio. A rally supporting Planned Parenthood is planned for 11 a.m. today at the Mount Auburn location.

• Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank has agreed to pay more than $18 million to settle claims it engaged in discriminatory lending practices against minorities seeking auto loans. A federal investigation into Fifth Third’s lending practices through car dealerships found that the bank’s guidelines to dealers left a wide latitude of pricing discretion for loans. That discretion led directly to more expensive loans for qualified black and Hispanic buyers than were given to qualified white buyers, according to the feds. Minority car buyers paid an average of $200 more than white buyers due to those discrepancies, according to the investigation. The question is whether those dealers were more or less uniformly charging minorities slightly more than white buyers, or if some dealerships charged minorities a lot more and others played by the straight and narrow. Fifth Third points out that it didn’t make these loans itself, but merely purchased them from the dealers. The bank maintains it treats its customers equally. The bank will pay another $3.5 million in an unrelated settlement over deceptive credit card sales practices some telemarketers with the bank engaged in, according to federal investigators.

• Last night, representatives with 3CDC, the city and planning firm Human Nature held a presentation and listening session unveiling their plans for a revamped Ziegler Park. Their $30 million proposal includes revamped basketball courts, a new pool in the northern section of the park and a quiet, tree-lined green space above a new parking garage across the street. Ziegler sits along Sycamore Street across from the former School for Creative and Performing Arts on the border of Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton. An Indianapolis developer, Core Redevelopment, is currently renovating the SCPA building into luxury apartments. This change, along with others in the rapidly developing neighborhoods, has spurred increased concerns about gentrification in the area. Some who are wary of the park say the proposed renovation could play into a dynamic where long-term, often minority residents in the neighborhood are made to feel unwelcome or even priced out. 3CDC officials say they’ve taken steps to make sure neighborhood wishes for the park are honored. Last night’s meeting was the final of four input sessions the developer has undertaken.

• It’s not often you get two different Zieglers in the news, but today is one of those days. The Cincinnati Visitor’s Bureau has hired a new national sales manager who will focus on marketing to the LGBT community. David Ziegler will head up the group’s pitch to LGBT groups, which CVB has already made strides on. The visitor’s bureau has been working with area hotels to get them certified as LGBT-friendly and has worked to bring LGBT conventions and meetings to the city.

• Finally, after House Speaker John Boehner’s abrupt exit last week (which you can read more about in this week’s news feature out tomorrow), you might be concerned for his squinty-eyed Republican friend in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell represents Kentucky and also holds the most powerful role in the prestigious legislative body, ushering through waves of conservative legislation.

But that’s where it’s tough for McConnell: Republicans in the Senate have a very slim majority that isn’t adequate to pass things beyond a Democratic filibuster or presidential veto. McConnell has taken a beating over this in the past from tea party radicals like Sen. Ted Cruz in much the same way Boehner did in the House, leading many staunch conservatives to call for his head next. But it’s unlikely the 74-year-old McConnell will be toppled the way Boehner was anytime soon, this Associated Press story argues, due to the nature of the Senate and McConnell’s strong support from his more moderate GOP colleagues.

by Natalie Krebs 09.28.2015 6 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WWE Boehner

Morning News and Stuff

Boehner resigns and slams fellow Republicans; Health Department denies Planned Parenthood license; Kasich targets Iowa

Good morning, Cincinnati! There was a lot going on around the city this weekend, and I hope everyone got out and enjoyed something, whether it was Midpoint Music Festival, Clifton Fest or the "blood" supermoon eclipse last night. Here are today's headlines. 

• In case you were distracted by having too much fun this weekend, Speaker of the House and West Chester native John Boehner announced his resignation on Friday. Boehner met with Pope Francis on Thursday and apparently that night before going to bed told his wife that he'd had enough. Boehner has served as House speaker for five years and declined to say what he has planned next at the news conference on Friday.  

Boehner then spoke to CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday where he assured the nation that there will be no government shutdown and fired some shots at uncompromising Republicans, like Texas Senator Ted Cruz, calling them "false prophets." Boehner was facing a potential vote that would remove him from his position so the House could pass a bill that would include a provision that would defund Planned Parenthood, an uncompromising demand that conservatives are making in order to pass the budget. The move hasn't sat well at all with Boehner. "Our founders didn't want some parliamentary system where, if you won the majority, you got to do whatever you wanted. They wanted this long, slow process," he told CBS. More coverage on Boehner's resignation to come this week in CityBeat.

• Speaking of shutting down Planned Parenthood, Cincinnati could potentially become the largest metropolitan area without an abortion clinic. State health officials denied licenses to the Planned Parenthood in Mount Auburn and the Women's Med clinic in Dayton. Both clinics were unable to find a private hospital to create a patient-transfer agreement with as required by a recently passed Ohio state law and requested an exemption from the Ohio Department of Health. The move could shut down the last two abortion providers in southwestern Ohio and reduce the number of surgical abortion providers in Ohio to seven. There were 14 in 2013. Both facilities have 30 days to request a hearing to appeal the denial, and Planned Parenthood has already said it plans to. 

• Former Cincinnati Police Capt. Gary Lee will run for Hamilton County sheriff. Lee, who was with the Cincinnati Police Department for 33 years, will run against Democratic incumbent Jim Neil. During his time with the CPD, Neil worked in the vice unit, special services section, and was District 1 captain.

• Gov. John Kasich is targeting the Feb.1 Iowa caucuses in the wake of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's departure from the presidential race. Kasich has most recently focused on finishing strong in New Hampshire, which has a history of favoring more moderate Republicans, but now has shifted his focus to Iowa where he hopes a strong finish can help him in the Michigan and Ohio primaries. Kasich is reportedly following a strategy used in 2012 by then-Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who did win New Hampshire and the Republican nomination, but ultimately lost the election. 

• NASA says it will reveal a major finding about Mars this morning. The space agency is keeping quiet about what exactly it found, but I'm hoping it's Martians. The Guardian thinks it could have to something to do with finding evidence of water on the planet, and they have more evidence to back up their prediction. Either way, it'll be exciting. 

• Didn't stay up late to watch last night's supermoon eclipse? It was pretty awesome, but congratulations on getting more sleep than many other Cincinnatians. If you missed out or just want to relive the experience this morning, you can check out some pretty cool photos here. 

That's all for now. Email me at nkrebs@citybeat.com with any story tips.   

by Natalie Krebs 09.24.2015 10 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
news1_protester_7-9 copy

Morning News and Stuff

Cincy community college president steps down; Wright State University to host presidential debate; Ohio senate introduces bill to defund Planned Parenthood

Good morning, Cincy! Here are your morning headlines. 

Cincinnati State Technical and Community College President Dr. O'dell Owens has stepped down to become the medical director of the Cincinnati Health Department. Cincinnati's health commission approved Owens' appointment Tuesday night, and he stepped down Wednesday evening after he reportedly felt like tensions between him and the college's board of trustees made it to difficult for him to continue. Provost Monica Posey will serve as interim president of the college and the school will launch a nationwide search for a permenant replacement. The position of medical director has been open since July 1 when Dr. Lawrence Holditch retired. 

• Wright State University in Dayton is set to host the first presidential debate next fall. The school has already created a website for the much-anticipated event that will take place almost exactly a year from now on September 26, 2016. Many details, such as the format of the debate or number of candidates that will participate, are still uncertain at this time. But if you're wondering how much time left until this action packed event down to the second, the debate's official website includes a countdown. Just 368 days, 10 hours, 34 minutes and 8 seconds to go (ed. note: that's now 368 days, 10 hours, 29 minutes and 16 seconds left to go, errr... 15 seconds... 14... ah)... 

• Need a new job? Ride-sharing service Uber will double its workforce next year by adding 10,000 news drivers to Ohio, including 3,000 in Columbus, which currently has 2,500 registered drivers. Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger has called the addition a "monumental task," and State Legislators are considering a bill that would make transportation regulations for Uber. In the meantime, Uber will start hosting recruitment events over the next few months. This announcement bring me one step closer to selling my car. Now, if only Cincinnati could attract Car2Go to come here, I'd be set. 

• Republican Senate President Keith Faber has introduced a bill to divert government funds from Planned Parenthood. A similar bill was introduced into the House in August. The move comes after the release of controversial footage recorded by anti-abortion activists that shows a Planned Parenthood official describing how the group benefits from selling fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood claims it has broken no laws and that the video is heavily edited. But it had lead to a push by Republicans across the country to defund the health clinics.

• More local Muslim leaders have spoken out against GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson's comments the former physician made saying he wouldn't support a Muslim president. Carson, who is a Seven-Day Adventist, told Meet the Press on Sunday that he would not advocate for a Muslim as president. Roula Allouch, an attorney who chairs the Council on American-Islamic Relations told the Enquirer she questions Carson's ability to run for president after making "very bigoted remarks," which shows a lack of basic knowledge of the Constitution and Islamic relations. Carson addressed his comments during his visit to Sharonville on Tuesday claiming they were taken out of context.                   

Email me at nkrebs@citybeat.com. I'm out for today!
by Nick Swartsell 09.23.2015 11 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

No fed money for CPD body cams, but some for extra cops; should Burnet Woods change?; Kasich schmoozes on late night TV

Hey hey! Here’s what’s going on around the city today.

The Cincinnati Police Department won’t get federal money to supply officers with body cameras, but that won’t stop CPD from equipping its officers with the technology. The department has planned on purchasing the cameras for months, and the issue became even more urgent after footage from a body camera worn by University of Cincinnati Police officer Ray Tensing revealed that he more than likely acted improperly in the shooting death of black motorist Samuel DuBose at a routine traffic stop in July. UC police are required to wear the cameras. CPD officers aren’t yet, but that will change. The city says its goal is to begin equipping officers with the cameras by next May. Meanwhile, CPD will get help from the feds in other ways. Yesterday, the city announced the department will get a $1.9 million federal grant to add 15 more officers for three years.

• Do you like Burnet Woods? Or does it scare you? If you’re like the author of this editorial, it’s probably the latter, though you've only been there once so maybe give it another try. One of the oft-mentioned projects that could be funded by a proposed property tax levy to fund improvements to the city’s parks is a revamp of the urban forest just north of UC’s campus. That’s not surprising; in the past, Mayor John Cranley, who is pushing the tax proposal, has called the park “creepy” because… well, basically, because it has too many trees. He’s described his vision for the park as something akin to Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine, which underwent a multi-million renovation in 2011. I just want to be a contrarian voice here: Don’t change the woods. They’re lovely. I’m in there at least a few times a week, and I always see other folks there running, fishing, riding their bikes — all the things the mayor and others who want a revamp say they wish people did there. Having a densely wooded area in the midst of such a bustling set of neighborhoods is wonderful. What’s more, it doesn’t seem to impact crime in any way. If you’re curious, here are reported crimes in Burnet in the last year. Notice anything? Yeah, there was like, one.

 • Efforts to develop the riverfront in Northern Kentucky will get a big boost from state grants. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Gov. Steve Beshear have awarded the city of Covington nearly $4 million in Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grants, the city announced yesterday. That money will be used toward a $10 million walking and biking path along the Ohio River along with other upgrades to the area. A total of $5.4 million in CMAQ grants will go to Northern Kentucky, according to the a news release by the city.

• North College Hill Mayor Amy Bancroft has resigned, citing acrimony between herself and the City Council in the municipality just north of Cincinnati as one of many reasons for her departure. Bancroft said the atmosphere in city government “borders on harassment and bullying” and that the workplace is a “toxic environment.” At least one city council member has fired back at those accusations, saying that it’s the city administration led by Bancroft that has caused the toxic environment and that council merely sought transparency from the administration. Bancroft was appointed to the position after the previous mayor Daniel Brooks left the position. Brooks had served as mayor for three decades. Bancroft was up for election this fall, but will not register as a candidate. Besides the tumultuous atmosphere in city government, Bancroft said she was resigning to spend more time with her family.

• OK, so I know you’ve been waiting. It’s time for your daily update on Gov. John Kasich. Last night he appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers and joked about his dance moves, his low polling numbers and the fact that he’s a Steelers fan and is still somehow governor of Ohio. Not really much new here on the policy front, or in terms of campaign strategies. But Meyers did give Kasich props for running what he called a “reasonable” campaign in the midst of the Trumps and Cruzes getting all crazy-like. It’s yet another moment in which Kasich is working hard to sell himself as the plain-speaking moderate who is friends with the working class average Joe and Jane. Again, many of his tax policies and attempts to bust up public unions might suggest otherwise, but in a field where folks like former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker can get drummed out of the race for not being conservative enough, you have to take what you can get when it comes to “reasonability.” Walker and Perry bailing on the primary hasn’t seemed to help Kasich much yet, but only having to duel, like, 13 other people instead of 15 probably can’t hurt.

• Finally, the Pope is hanging out in America. It’s a big deal. He said some stuff about climate change and income inequality. Conservatives are angry. Etc. You’ve heard this one already so I’ll just stop there.

I’m out! Twitter. Email.  You know how it goes.

by Natalie Krebs 09.22.2015 12 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Ben Carson comes to Cincinnati; Hamilton County Sheriff's Department gets body cams; VW gets caught cheating

Hey Cincinnati! Has everyone recovered from all the beer and brats consumed during Oktoberfest? No, not yet? I haven't either. But it was worth it, right? While we take that slow road to recovery, here are today's headlines. 

• GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson is making his first public appearance this morning in Cincinnati after his controversial remarks that a Muslim should not be president and that Islam goes against the U.S. Constitution. Carson, who will be rallying in Sharonville this morning, disappointed Muslims everywhere when he told NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday that he "would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation." The Cincinnati office of the Council on American Islamic Relations recently stated that Carson should probably read the Constitution a little closer. Carson, a devout Seven-Day Adventist and retired neurosurgeon, is currently a close second behind Donald Trump in polls for the GOP nomination. He will speak at the Sharonville Convention Center to rally support in the Ohio presidential primary, which takes place on March 15, 2016. 

• Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's son, Pat, will be running for the one of the two empty seats on the Ohio Supreme Court next year. The younger DeWine is a Republican and currently on the 1st Ohio District Court of Appeals. He is also a former Hamilton County judge. There is no announced Democratic contender yet. Two current justices are retiring next year because they have hit the mandatory age limit of 70. 

• The U.S. Department of Justice will give the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department a grant for just under $140,000 to purchase body cameras. The grant requires a 50/50 match with department funds, a "robust" training and was part of a $23 million program to get body cameras in 73 other agencies across the country.  

• The Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board is considering a recommendation to put Cincinnati's Heberle School on the National Register of Historical Places. The school, located in the West End, was build in 1929 as an elementary school to serve and aid the low-income population in the area. It was one of the schools developed during the Progressive Movement in the 1920s to fix some of the social issues caused by the industrial revolution. The board will review the property on Friday to decide whether to pass it along to the State Historic Preservation Office. 

• Last weekend was a great time to celebrate all things German, but probably not the best time to buy a certain German-made car. Volkswagen is in big trouble for cheating after U.S regulators found that some of its 2015 diesel cars were equipped with software that gave false emissions data. The company revealed today that the problem is not just in its U.S. cars, but also in 11 million of VW cars worldwide. In the two days since the scandal erupted, VW's stock has dropped 20 percent and the company has told U.S. dealers to halt the sale of some 2015 diesel models. The problem looks like it will be a hefty cost to the German automaker. VW has set aside $7.3 billion to cover the cost of fixing the cars and could face fines of up to $18 billion from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

• Pope Francis will be making his first visit to the U.S. today after wrapping up his time on the Cuban beaches. The Pope will be here until next Sunday and then will visit Washington D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. He will reportedly give a speech to Congress addressing climate change, a move that is throwing off some Republicans lawmakers, like Rep. Paul Gosar, a Catholic from Arizona, who support one and not the other. Gosar plans to boycott the speech. 

That's all for today. As always, my email is nkrebs@citybeat.com.

by Nick Swartsell 09.21.2015 13 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Noon News and Stuff

Rally remembering police shooting victims draws 100; did weed legalization effort create a biz tax loophole?; Kasich cuts a rug

Good morning all! Hope you're recovering from your Oktoberfest weekend. CityBeat's news team did the Hudy 7k (not the 14k because we're weak), which is basically an Oktoberfest pre-game that involves running some miles and then drinking free beers and eating free cheese coneys and goetta sliders at 9:30 in the morning. It's a good way to get all limbered up for the world's second-largest Oktoberfest, and also a great way to completely incapacitate yourself for an entire Sunday.

Anyway, here’s what’s up today.

• About 100 people, including the families of several unarmed people killed by police in Ohio in the last year, rallied Saturday on the campus of University of Cincinnati to remember Samuel DuBose and protest his death.
DuBose, who was unarmed, was shot July 19 during a routine traffic stop about a mile from campus in Mount Auburn by former UC police officer Ray Tensing. Tensing has since been charged with murder for that shooting. The rally ended with a march to the spot where DuBose was shot. A break-off march down Calhoun Street near UC’s campus resulted in four arrests. Video of that march seems to show a Cincinnati Police officer using a Taser on one marcher. Police have not released the charges against the four arrested during the march.

• By now, you’re probably familiar with ResponsibleOhio, the marijuana-legalization group that has landed an amendment to the state’s constitution on the November ballot. But did you know that the amendment as written might provide a state business tax loophole for businesses involved in selling marijuana? Some business tax experts say the inclusion of the word “local” in a clause within the amendment proposal would allow businesses related to the marijuana effort to forego paying state taxes on flow-through income. The proposal’s 10 grow sites, which would be owned by investors, would have to pay a flat tax on their earnings as set forth by the amendment. So would any marijuana retail stores that spring up from the legalization effort.

The ballot language also stipulates that such businesses would also have to pay any local taxes associated with doing business. But there’s the rub: former Ohio tax commissioner Tom Zaino says “local” in that context can be read legally to exclude state taxes. ResponsibleOhio says skirting those taxes isn’t the intention, and that it included the language to make sure businesses pay all applicable tax obligations, not just municipal ones. The initiative would allow anyone over 21 to purchase marijuana, but it has caused controversy due to the fact that it would only allow 10 grow sites around the state owned by the group’s investors.

• This has been all over my social media feed, mostly posted by angry Cincy natives. What do you think about this opinion piece from a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter who recently moved here from Florida? I have my own feelings, which I guess I can sum up by saying it’s kind of a bizarre and tone-deaf thing to publish. Who comes to a city and after five months calls oneself and one’s cohort “giants in a place that needs us?” Also, who calls entertainment places “nightclubs” these days? I dunno.

There are consistently more rad things going on in this city than I can make it to in any given week. I mean, if I went to all the cool stuff Chase Public and the Comet alone do in a given seven-day stretch I’d be exhausted, and that’s just in Northside. That’s all beside the point, though. The article’s apparent focus (it’s kind of all over the place) is that the city needs to find ways to attract more young professionals, especially minority young professionals. To which I would counter that is not the city’s biggest problem. We have enough young people, especially young people of color, coming up in the city who need more support. Transplants are welcome, but we can’t remake the city according to their wishes when we have a ton of people born and raised here who aren’t getting the opportunities their potential deserves. So yeah, let’s focus on that and then maybe we can build a new nightclub for the YPs who don’t want to pay Austin prices for their next vocational adventure.

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich can dance if he wants to, and he did just that Saturday night in Michigan after a GOP conference in which he made a distinctly working class pitch to Republican primary voters. Kasich danced to a Walk the Moon song for about 10 seconds, and, honestly, the results were… not disastrous. He looked slightly cooler than your dad at a wedding reception but less cool than like, someone who can actually dance. That’s a good place for a presidential candidate to be, I guess. Kasich wasn’t exactly setting the floor on fire, but it also looked like he didn’t really care that much about it, which is the true key to dancing.

If Kasich's tax policy was as inoffensive as his moves, well, Ohio would be a better place, that’s for sure. Kasich finished third in a straw poll in Michigan behind U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Not a bad showing, but Kasich has serious ground to make up before the state’s March 8 primary. The Ohio guv continues to poll low nationally, getting around 2 percent of the vote compared to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s 24 percent.

That’s it for me. Email or tweet at me with your best pitch for a new nightclub in Cincy. My vote? A Miami Vice-themed dance club at The Banks called Sax on the Beach where DJ Kasich spins your young professional 80s soft rock favorites.