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by Nick Swartsell 04.01.2016 53 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.31.2016 54 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.30.2016 55 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.29.2016 56 days ago
Posted In: News at 01:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Local Democrats Propose $15 Minimum Wage for City Workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 03.29.2016 56 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
winburn

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• The U.S. Justice Department announced Monday it has found a way to unlock the iPhone of Syed Farook, one of the gunmen in the Dec. 14 San Bernardino, Calif., shooting that killed 14, without Apple's help. The U.S. government dropped its lawsuit against Apple this week where it was trying to force the company into building software that was basically a backdoor key into the phone. The company had refused, saying the creation of such software would pose too much of a security threat for all of its customers.
 
 
by Steve Beynon 03.28.2016 57 days ago
Posted In: 2016 election at 11:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Why Is Kasich Still Running?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 03.28.2016 57 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
rob portman

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Finally, the New York Times interviewed Donald Trump on his stance on foreign policy. His policy apparently does go beyond building a wall and making Mexico pay for it. If you don't want to read the entire thing, here are some highlights.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.25.2016 60 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cincinnati_bike lane_dana ave1

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 03.25.2016 60 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cradle

Hamilton County Still Struggling with Infant Mortality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.24.2016 61 days ago
Posted In: News at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
bike and dine

City Administration Releases, Then Pulls, Bike Lane Study

Study found stretch of Central no more dangerous than comparable streets, recommended keeping lanes

Cincinnati's Central Parkway Bikeway hasn't made the thoroughfare any more dangerous than similar streets without lanes, a study has found.

A memo written today by Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black detailed results of a study by the city's transportation department revealing that the stretch of Central Parkway that includes the city's controversial bike lane has had no more accidents than comparable streets without lanes.

"Changing any street from full-time parking to rush-hour restricted parking does require an adjustment in drivers’ behavior and expectations," the memo reads. "However, the number of crashes between the 1600 block and the 2000 block of Central Parkway (Liberty Street to Ravine Street) is comparable to similar streets citywide."

The study compared the stretch of Central Parkway with the lanes to Glenway Avenue between Rapid Run Road and Gilsey Avenue and Hamilton Avenue between Spring Grove Avenue and Bruce Avenue. Central Parkway had seven parked-car crashes and 62 total accidents in 2015, according to the study. Glenway had 13 parked car crashes and 91 total crashes. Hamilton Avenue had seven parked car crashes and 51 total crashes.

Controversy has raged over the lanes since they were first proposed in 2012. A pitched battle over parking along Central Parkway led to a $100,000 compromise that re-routed the lane around parking in front of the Mohawk Building along the sidewalk. Since that time, there have been complaints about a large number of car accidents along the route.

Last month, Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman introduced a motion calling for removal of the lanes, citing citizen complaints about safety. Meanwhile, community councils in Over-the-Rhine and Clifton have come out in support of the lanes and have asked that they be extended.

The memo recommends that the lanes stay in place.

“Given the reduced risk of injury to bicyclists, the administration does not recommend removal of the bike lanes,” the memo reads. “However, DOTE will continue to monitor conditions, and improvements may be made in the future as best practices evolve.”

UPDATE: City administration has since pulled the report, saying it was released prematurely.

"The report in response to Council Motion No. 2016000342 was issued prematurely and has been recalled," according to a statement issued by City of Cincinnati Director of Communications Rocky Merz. "Before being presented to the City Manager for review, the item was not fully vetted and has not undergone a complete administrative review. We are working swiftly to respond to the City Council motion and the report will be re-issued once all necessary review and consideration has occurred."

You can still find the original report here.

Vice Mayor David Mann isn't too happy about the report being pulled, according to Cincinnati Business Courier reporter Chris Wetterich.

"I believe that report on the bike lane is one of the best reports I’ve seen because it’s evidence based," Wetterich reported Mann saying.

 
 

 

 

 
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