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by Kevin Osborne 09.20.2011
Posted In: 2011 Election, City Council, Business, Streetcar at 11:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Chamber Opposes Anti-Streetcar Issue

As part of its slate of endorsements announced today, the Cincinnati U.S.A. Regional Chamber of Commerce stated it's opposed to Issue 48, the proposed charter amendment that would block construction of Cincinnati's planned streetcar system.

The Chamber announced its positions on six local issues that will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

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by Danny Cross 05.08.2012

Morning News and Stuff

City Council is considering increasing cab fares prior to the World Choir Games in July as part of an overhaul of the city’s taxi industry. During a Rules and Government Operations Committee meeting Monday, Councilman Wendell Young described the industry as having little regulation and often undesirable experiences, The Enquirer reports. Council last spring removed a city rule that made it illegal to hail a cab. Among the recommendations expected to be made are the standardization of rates, an increase in the number of permanent taxi stands and the visible display of a Customer Bill of Rights.

The two men hired to beat a Columbia Tusculum man over a property dispute admitted in court yesterday to having been paid by Robert Fritzsch to whoop on Tom Nies Jr. The beaters will avoid jail time in exchange for testifying against Fritzsch. The beating was allegedly a retaliation after a court ordered the removal of Fritzsch's addition to his home that blocked the river view of Nies' house. 

Robert Chase is a member of Ohio’s oil and gas commission, in addition to operating a private consulting firm that deals with many of the private companies interested in making mass money off the state’s drilling leases. The Ohio Ethics Commission this week warned Chase that such consulting work could present a conflict of interest, though Chase says he’s not surprised and that he knows what his ethical responsibilities are.

NBC has picked up a sitcom set in Cincinnati starring Anne Heche, who reportedly plays an Indian Hill housewife who believes she can channel God after surviving an accident involving nearly choking on a sandwich (with humorous results?). The show, which will have a 13-episode first season, is titled Save Me.

The Obama administration might be hinting at considering same-sex marriage rights during a second term, but the folks down in North Carolina are having none of it: A state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and civil unions is on today’s ballot, despite the existence of a state statute that already outlaws it.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is busting Mitt Romney up for choosing not to address a woman’s suggestion that Obama should be tried for treason.

During an event near Cleveland yesterday, a woman asked Romney if he thinks President Obama is "operating outside the structure of our Constitution," and "should be tried for treason."

Romney did not respond to the treason comment, but instead criticized Obama's recent comments on the Supreme Court -- drawing a rebuke from the Obama campaign.

Romney says he doesn’t correct all the questions that are asked of him and that he obviously doesn’t believe Obama should be tried for treason. USA Today pointed out that the incident is similar to one that occurred during the 2008 election, which John McCain handled quite differently:

It was one of the defining moments of the 2008 presidential campaign: A woman at a rally for Republican John McCain, while asking McCain a question, called Democratic contender Barack Obama "an Arab" who couldn't be trusted.

McCain took the microphone and said, "No ma'am. He's a decent family man ... who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues." McCain's response symbolized his discomfort with the volatile crowds he was seeing as his campaign faded during the final days of the 2008 race.

A study suggests that fighting obesity will necessitate a broader approach than blaming the individual, likely involving schools, workplaces, health care providers and fast-food restaurants.

Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson has apologized for pretending to have a degree in computer science. Thompson says he’ll update his resume but has no plans to step down.

The U.S. could make a $1.5 billion profit on its bailout of insurance company American International Group, Inc. At least that’s what the Government Accountability Office says.

Google’s driverless cars have received their permits in Nevada. What's next? Drive down every single street in America and photographing it?

by 11.18.2010
Posted In: News, Media, Business, Community at 03:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Callinan Quiet on Enquirer Rumors

Journalism-related Web sites have been abuzz this week with rumors that Editor Tom Callinan is about to leave his job at The Enquirer. Callinan is keeping mum for now, but one of his rumored replacements says he will remain in California and not return to Cincinnati.

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by German Lopez 08.07.2013
Posted In: City Council, News, Business, Racism, Parking at 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
disparity study

Council Members Rally Behind Racial Disparity Study

Proposal uses parking lease funds to measure disparity among contracted businesses

Cincinnati council members and community leaders today explained and defended plans to use the parking lease to fund a disparity study that would gauge whether the city should change its contracting policies to favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses.

But before City Council unanimously passed the motion at today's meeting, it was amended to allow the city administration to find alternate sources of funding.

Since the city dismantled its last minority- and women-owned business program in 1999, contract participation rates for minority-owned businesses have plummeted, while rates for women-owned businesses have remained relatively flat.

But because of a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, governments must conduct a study to prove there's a race- or gender-based disparity before policies can be adjusted to favor such groups.

Cincinnati has not taken up a disparity study since 2002. That study found evidence of disparities but ultimately recommended race- and gender-neutral policies to avoid legal uncertainty that surrounded the issue at the time.

"This is an opportunity to respond to a complaint and concern that has been around for as long as I can remember," Councilman Wendell Young said.

City officials claim they couldn't conduct another study until the administration finished implementing recommendations from OPEN Cincinnati, a task force established in 2009 after Mayor Mark Mallory and his administration were criticized for neglecting the city's small business program.

But the holdup has also been brought on by the study's cost, which city officials currently estimate between $500,000 and $1.5 million. Some critics argue the money would be better spent elsewhere.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who's running for mayor this year, defended the cost by explaining a disparity study can potentially lead to economic development by lifting minority groups, who currently face unemployment rates higher than white Cincinnati residents. She said it's on the city to ensure everyone, including women and minorities, benefit from Cincinnati's economic growth.

Other critics, particularly mayoral candidate John Cranley, have criticized the motion's suggestion for funding. The motion asks the city administration to fund the study with part of the upfront money that will come from leasing the city's parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but it does allow the city administration to find other funding options if possible.

Cranley, who supports conducting a disparity study but opposes the parking lease, says the money should come from other, unnamed sources because parking funds are currently being held up while the city hashes out legal uncertainty surrounding the lease and the Port Authority works out contracts with private operators that will manage Cincinnati's parking assets.

In response to those concerns, Qualls said that "money doesn't grow on trees" and Council has to make do with what it has.

Councilman Chris Seelbach voted against the parking lease, but he supports using parking funds for the disparity study. He says that, while he may have voted against the lease, the vote is done and the money is there.

The amended motion was unanimously passed by City Council today. It asks the city administration to present a budget and timetable for the study at the Budget and Finance Committee's first October meeting.

Updated at 3:18 p.m. with results of City Council meeting.

by 10.15.2008
Posted In: News, Business at 05:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

For Cintas, It's Business As Usual

Two proposals by institutional shareholders designed to increase independent oversight at Cintas Corp. failed to gain a majority of votes Tuesday at the company’s annual meeting.

The proposals included one by the North Carolina Retirement Systems, which represents the pension investments of unionized North Carolina state government workers. It sought to have an independent chairman — unconnected to the Farmer family — appointed to the board of directors to enhance oversight and improve the company’s abysmal safety record.

The other proposal sought an advisory shareholder vote on executive pay.

As the meeting was conducted, more than 300 protesters comprised of Cintas workers from across the nation and their local supporters rallied outside of the company’s Mason headquarters (pictured above), demanding an end to what they described as egregiously unsafe working conditions at the uniform supplier’s industrial laundries.

A proposal by another institutional shareholder — CtW Investment Group — was also defeated that would have blocked the appointment of David Phillips to the Cintas board due to what it described as an undisclosed conflict of interest and weak leadership in his role as the company’s Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee chairman.

(See my recent news article "Cintas Under a Microscope" for background on these shareholder proposals.)

Cintas didn’t reveal the vote totals for board appointments. CtW representatives said about 35 percent of outside shareholders opposed Phillips’ appointment, which amounted to a “vote of no confidence.”

CtW had alleged that in his role as committee chairman, “Mr. Phillips bears responsibility for many of the company’s questionable governance practices, which include … inadequate response to legitimate governance concerns."

Further, CtW disliked that Phillips serves as trustee of Cincinnati Works, which received more than $200,000 in charitable contributions from foundations controlled by Cintas insiders and affiliates.

Each of the proposals had been endorsed by the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE), an organization trying to unionize Cintas workers for more than five years.

Some Cintas employees who were given proxies by shareholders were denied access to the annual meeting, according to UNITE.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited at least 10 Cintas facilities nationwide in just over a year for safety violations, including one that resulted in the death of a worker. Since 2003 Cintas has been cited for more than 170 OSHA violations in its facilities, including more than 70 citations that OSHA deemed could cause “death or serious physical harm."

(Photo of protest outside Cintas annual meeting on Oct. 15 by Cameron Knight. See more photos here)

by Kevin Osborne 02.21.2012

Morning News and Stuff

If you've ever felt like your car was held hostage by a towing company wanting an exorbitant fee before it would release your vehicle, this will sound like sweet justice. The city of Cincinnati's prosecutor has begun a criminal investigation of Kenwood Towing, based on allegations of overcharging. The firm, which has locations in Northside and South Cumminsville, also has been indefinitely suspended from its city contracts pending the investigation's outcome. Ohio law limits how much towing companies can charge, but residents have complained that Kenwood routinely violates the law, in some cases charging 400 percent more than is allowed.

Leasing issues with some current tenants at Corryville Plaza could delay parts of a major redevelopment project near the University of Cincinnati. The $78 million first phase of U Square @ The Loop is underway, with construction of shops and apartments along William Howard Taft Road. But plans to demolish and revamp the plaza where a Kroger grocery store and a Walgreen's pharmacy are located might be postponed. That's because three tenants — a chiropractic center, furniture store and clothing retailer – remain under lease under 2015. Developers are negotiating for their earlier departure.

The recent, unexpected death of Hamilton County Coroner Anaht Bhati means local Democratic officials have until Thursday to find a replacement candidate to put on the November ballot. Besides investigating suspicious deaths, the coroner can act as a de facto commissioner if two of the three Hamilton County commissioners are unavailable to conduct business for some reason.

Ongoing construction at the Horseshoe Casino on downtown's eastern edge will cause some detours for motorists. Beginning today, the work will close Eggleston Avenue between Central Avenue and East Court Street for about four months.

In news elsewhere, the super PAC supporting Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign raised $6.6 million last month and spent $13.9 million, according to a report filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission. Politico reports the paperwork reveals 25 six-figure donations, many from repeat donors, which accounted for $4.9 million of Restore Our Future’s January haul. Money might not buy love, but it can give new life to a lackluster candidate.

More than 2,000 angry Afghans gathered outside a US military base to protest the allegedly inadvertent burning of Korans and other Islamic religious materials. The items are thought to have been burned as part of routine disposal of garbage at Bagram Air Field. (Yep, we're winning hearts and minds over there, don'tcha know.)

DSK is in trouble yet again. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, is being detained for questioning by French police investigating a prostitution ring. Strauss-Kahn, once a front-runner for the French presidency, was charged last year in New York with the attempted rape of a hotel maid. Prosecutors later dropped the case, stating it would be difficult to win a conviction.

Government officials are offering a reward of nearly $1 million for the capture of 30 inmates who broke out of a prison in Mexico on Sunday. The governor said the inmates staged a riot, during which 44 people died, to create a diversion for their escape. The fugitives are gang members involved in the Mexican drug trade, he added.
by Andy Brownfield 08.28.2012

Romney/Mandel Event Mandatory For Miners?

Romney campaign, Murray Energy dispute who made call to close mine for event

Earlier this month presumed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appeared at a coal mine in Beallsville, Ohio to denounce President Barack Obama’s “war on coal” against a powerful backdrop: hundreds of coal miners dusted with the black powder that their work entails.

But what wasn’t made apparent at the time is that those workers were pulled from the mines prematurely and not paid for the time they didn’t work.

According to emails and phone calls received by WWVA-AM West Virginia talk show host David Blomquist, miners said they were told that attendance at the Romney event would be mandatory and unpaid.

As first reported by The Plain Dealer in Cleveland on Tuesday, mine owner Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore told Blomquist that managers “communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend.” He said that people who did now show up to the event, which organizers say drew 1,500 miners and family members, were not penalized for their absence.

Blomquist said during the radio show that current and former employees had called and emailed him saying they feel they were forced to go, had to take off a day without pay and a roll call was taken, which caused some employees to believe they would lose their jobs if they didn’t show up.

“Just for the record, if we did not go, we knew what would happen,” Blomquist read from an email he had received. “It is wrong what we were made to do because of the outcome if we don’t.”

The Columbus Dispatch reported that Murray Energy Corp. founder Robert Murray attended the Tuesday breakfast hosted by the Ohio delegation to the Republican National Convention. Murray told the newspaper that the decision to close the mine was made at the request of the Secret Service.

Murray disputed the report that miners weren’t paid for the day, saying they were compensated for the hours they spend underground, from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. The mine was re-opened for a second shift at 4 p.m.

“They were all there voluntarily,” Murray said of the miners who attended the Romney event, which was also attended by Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman and Ohio Treasurer and Senate candidate Josh Mandel.

“You don’t pay people to go voluntarily to a political event. If I would’ve paid them you would be saying you want it the other way. This is all a bunch of nonsense,” Murray told The Dispatch. Federal law prohibits the paying of private employees to attend a political event.

Murray blames layoffs at some of his mines on Obama’s policies. His companies have had a history of environmental and safety violations, and its Political Action Committee has held fundraisers for and donated to Republican causes.

Romney’s Ohio campaign spokesman disputed that the Secret Service had the mine shut down, telling The Dispatch in an email that “It was Murray Energy’s decision to close the Century Mine, not the campaign’s or the Secret Services.” His comment echoes what Murray CFO Moore said on the radio show, that management wanted to attend the event and they couldn’t have miners underground without management present.

For his part, radio host Blomquist took issue with the fact that the miners lost out on a full eight hours of pay because of a political event.

“My whole point is that nobody should be pressured into attending anyone’s political event,” he told The Plain Dealer. “If they shut the mine down, why should they lose a day’s pay? There are some guys that just want to go to work, feed their family and go home.”

by 10.22.2009
Posted In: News, Police, Public Policy, Business at 03:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Don't Taze My Chest, Bro

After widespread criticism from human rights groups, the maker of the Taser electrical stun gun is now advising law enforcement agencies to avoid shooting people in the chest with the weapon.

Taser International, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., recommended the change in a revised training manual issued Oct. 12. The company stated there’s an “extremely low” risk of ill effects from a shot to the chest, but added it’s better to use caution.

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by 12.03.2009
Posted In: Media, Financial Crisis, Business at 04:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

More Enquirer Furloughs on the Way

2010 already is beginning to look a lot like 2009 at The Cincinnati Enquirer.

In a memo issued Dec. 1, an executive with The Gannett Co., The Enquirer’s Virginia-based owner, wrote that newspaper employees must take another five-day, unpaid furlough within the first quarter of the year. Bob Dickey, Gannett’s U.S. community publishing president, blamed the continuing weak economy.

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by Kevin Osborne 02.27.2012

Morning News and Stuff

One of the biggest attractions at The Banks shopping and residential district opens to the public today. The Moerlein Lager House restaurant and microbrewery, next to the still under-development Smale Riverfront Park, features 19th Century-inspired food and a large selection of beers including craft brews and more than 100 international beers, all meant to evoke Cincinnati's rich brewing history.

Frustrated about dog owners who won't clean up after their pooches, managers at an apartment complex in West Chester Township are going all Forensic Files to stop the problem. The Lakes at West Chester Village told residents all dogs must submit a mouth swab so managers have a DNA database to use so it can match up poo left on the lawns with the rightful dog and its owner.

With Opening Day about a month away, the Cincinnati Reds are poised to win the division title this season, according to the Associated Press. With a revamped pitching staff and star first baseman Joey Votto, the team's prospects look better than they have in years, said AP sports writer Tom Withers. The season opener against the Miami Marlins will begin at 4:10 p.m. on April 5, after the annual Findlay Market Opening Day Parade through Over-the-Rhine and downtown.

Budget cuts at the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) could mean the end for Hamilton County's 4-H program. County commissioners have ordered MSD to cut 10 percent of its budget, and some of that probably will come from the $400,000 the agency gives to programs like 4-H, which helps young people learn animal husbandry and life sciences activities like raising sheep and cattle. Some critics, however, question why sewer funds were being used to support an unrelated program in the first place.

In news elsewhere, hometown boy George Clooney largely was shut out of winning awards at Sunday night's Oscar ceremony. Clooney was nominated as Best Actor for The Descendants and for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Ides of March, but lost in both categories – to Jean Dujardin for The Artist and to the writers of The Descendants, respectively. Remember, George: It's an honor just to be nominated, and you still have that gorgeous hair. Other big winners last night included Meryl Streep, Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer.

In more of his over-the-top invective, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum dropped a couple of doozies over the weekend while campaigning in Michigan. First, Santorum said President Obama was “a snob” for saying he wanted all Americans to go to college. Then, he disparaged a 1960 speech by President Kennedy on the separation of church and state by saying he “almost threw up” while reading it. Oh, Republicans: Please nominate this guy, so we can all bet on just how many states he will lose in November.

WikiLeaks has begun publishing more than five million confidential emails from Stratfor, a U.S.-based security firm. Stratfor's computers were hacked by the activist group Anonymous in December. The company provides analysis of world affairs to subscribers which include major corporations, military officials and international government agencies.

Two people were arrested in a foiled plot to kill Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after next week's presidential election, according to Russian state TV. The men said they prepared the attack in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa and were planning to carry it out in Moscow. Meanwhile, Putin warned Western leaders against a military strike on Iran. He said if such an attack happens, “the fallout would be truly catastrophic.”