CityBeat's news team has been all over the map this year. In the past 365 days, we've delved deep into college athletic funding, the experiences of refugee families in Cincinnati, new community ownership models for neighborhood grocery stores and any number of other issues.
Often, we’ve covered stories no other media outlet in Cincinnati thought to. Hopefully you enjoyed it. Here are some of our most unique news stories this year.
Despite new development, Cincinnati is still a deeply segregated place.
Our story detailing the long history that has kept large portions of Cincinnati’s African-American population in low-income neighborhoods explored why many in our city struggle to access economic opportunity.
In the past year, intense tensions around race in America have re-emerged, sparking protests, civil unrest and reams of media coverage. But underneath issues around law enforcement’s role in black communities lie other problems. A pervasive and historically entrenched economic segregation in predominantly black neighborhoods continues to seal off many Cincinnatians, creating desperation and setting up extra barriers for residents of those communities. This lack of opportunity also informs the city’s much-publicized recent upswing in gun violence, its sky-high infant-mortality rate and a host of other problems.
City officials, neighborhood activists and experts have all offered ideas to alleviate this segregation, but it’s clear a complex, long-term and multi-faceted set of solutions is needed to improve the prospects of black Cincinnatians.
UC students come for education, but their fees go to sports
In 2013, UC officials provided the athletic department with a $21.75 million subsidy, records show, using student fees and money from the school’s general fund, which is primarily funded by tuition. The total subsidy amounts to $1,024 out of the pocket of every full-time undergraduate student on UC’s main campus. The four-year price tag costs each student more than $4,000.
The situation at the University of Cincinnati is not unique. An investigation by a UC investigative journalism class, which was published by CityBeat, looked into the eight largest public universities in Ohio in the Football Bowl Subdivision, finding that with one exception, college administrators and trustees impose hidden fees and invisible taxes on thousands of working-class students who pay tens of millions of dollars in subsidies to keep money-losing athletic departments afloat.
Many of these same schools are cutting faculty jobs and slashing academic spending. Between 2005 and 2013, academic spending per full-time undergraduate student at UC, adjusted for inflation, dropped 24 percent, according to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a national group of current and former college presidents seeking to reform college athletics using research studies and, more recently, online databases.
Are cooperative groceries the future in Cincinnati?
As Over-the-Rhine changes, some long-time residents find themselves forced to leave
Recent Census data suggests that Stroud isn’t the only one departing OTR. The area’s demographic makeup seems to be changing in parts of the neighborhood that have seen large-scale redevelopment.
Development in OTR has, until recently, been limited to the southern part of neighborhood, where the building Stroud lived in is located. Those efforts have changed the economic, and perhaps the racial, makeup of the area.
Developers and city officials say diversity is a key concern as OTR continues to change. And work is underway in other neighborhoods like Northside to find ways to encourage equitable economic development. But for former OTR residents like Stroud, those assurances provide little comfort.
UC suspends its campus sexual assault program, even as sexual assault continues to be a national issue
Refugees in Cincinnati find hardships in neglected neighborhoods, but also build community
The neighborhood is also one of the city’s most violent, struggling with drug activity, shootings, break-ins and murders. For families like Kadhim’s, the violence is an echo of the very strife they’ve come here to escape.
Kadhim and his family aren’t the only ones who struggle with the neighborhood’s challenges. Two-hundred Burundian refugees have ended up there in the last decade, plus others who have arrived more recently. The total number of refugees in the neighborhood is unclear — even the organizations helping refugees get acclimated don’t keep long-term statistics — but it’s clear they’re a big presence there, and often a positive one.
Dozens of the refugees living in this often-ignored corner of the city have found unique and vibrant ways to build community, helping to energize a 125-year-old church just down the road in North Fairmount. Some see their presence as hope that the area can rise again. But for many like Kadhim, the neighborhood’s danger, isolation and poverty remain obstacles to achieving the dreams of peace and prosperity they believed they could find in the U.S.
A new court helps those who have been sex-trafficked start over
(whose name CityBeat changed to protect her identity) came out as transgender during high school, her mother asked that she
leave her house and neighborhood in Northern Kentucky. That rejection
started a long, harrowing journey through sex trafficking and addiction from which it took Caroline years to recover. Now, a new court has helped her erase a criminal record she never should have had in the first place.
Caroline’s transgender status was part of her vulnerability. Her pimps worked a whole group of transgender
women, playing on their insecurities and search for acceptance. She
describes how traffickers would brand them — burning them with
cigarettes or hot clothes hangers. Caroline suffered beatings and also
mental and emotional abuse. Then there was the danger from the johns.
Two murders of transgender women in the past few years illustrate the dangers Caroline once faced. Twenty-eight-year-old Tiffany Edwards was killed in Walnut Hills in June 2014, and Kendall Hampton died there at age 26 in August 2012. Police suspect both were engaged in sex work at the time they died. Both, like Caroline, were women of color.
Court, presided over by Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Heather
Russell, will give those like Caroline a chance to expunge convictions
for acts done under the duress of sex trafficking. The court is part of a wider shift in
attitudes away from viewing sex trafficked individuals as criminals.
Social service and law enforcement agencies are increasingly seeing them
as victims in need of help.
The court’s focus will go beyond folks like Caroline, who have already triumphed over the horrors of sex trafficking, providing a road out of the world of coerced sex work for those who have yet to escape.
Immigrant workers victimized by wage theft fight back
Imagine you work hard to put food on the table, but your employer isn’t paying you when it say it will — or at all. Now imagine you can’t take easily report it or take the employer to court.
Because employers capitalize on their fear of being deported, undocumented immigrant workers are frequently victims of wage theft, whether it’s being paid less than minimum wage, shorted hours, forced to work off the clock, not being paid overtime or not paid at all.
From 2005 through 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor collected more than $6.5 million in unpaid wages from Ohio construction companies for workers who were cheated out of minimum wage, overtime pay or the regional prevailing wages required for public projects. Some 5,500 workers were affected, but how many were undocumented immigrants wasn’t recorded by the agency. The $6.5 million collected by labor officials for all workers is likely only a fraction of the actual wage theft in the industry, union officials say.
What’s needed, according to those officials, is the political will to adequately staff state and federal enforcement agencies so they can find violators without waiting for complainants to step forward. Ohio’s Bureau of Wage and Hour Administration, which enforces wage laws on public projects as well as minimum wage requirements and pay to minors, has just six investigators and one supervisor to cover the entire state.
Enforcing wage and hour laws is seen as “anti-business” among Ohio employers, chambers of commerce and its Republican-dominated government, some watchdog groups say, meaning that changing the situation seems a daunting political challenge.
Alternative spaces are changing and evolving in Cincinnati
The city has been a surprising hotbed for self-funded, not-for-profit art, music and party spaces, which exist in a twilight world just beyond the economic, regulatory and social rules that usually bound more traditional, for-profit entertainment venues. They’ve been aided by the low rents and lax oversight often found in the city’s more neglected corners and by a community of people looking for something outside the norm. And proponents of these under-the-radar venues say they’re important for more than just a few boundary-pushing art shows.
Many say these venues have given otherwise-unavailable opportunities to generations of Cincinnati artists and musicians. What’s more, urban experts say, such DIY spaces are good for the social health of cities. But as interest in urban living continues to take hold in Cincinnati and those once-neglected pockets of the city attract the gaze of developers, the future of these unique places has become uncertain.
Good morning Cincy! Here are your morning headlines.
• The U.S. Department of Justice announced earlier this month that they will be suspending the equitable sharing program that allows police to keep a large chunk of money and property seized from individuals. Local law enforcement will still be allowed to do it, but they will no longer be able to keep up to 80 percent of it. The program is controversial because police are able to keep property from those who are never actually charged with a crime like Charles Clark II, who now famously had $11,000 in cash seized by police at the CVG airport in February of 2014. CPD says they use the reportedly received $1.1 million they received from the program between 2010 and the middle of 2015 to pay for outside training for their police force, but non-profits like Washington D.C.-based Institute of Justice say the current program is problematic because it's become a money grab for law enforcement.
• Who exactly voted against ResponsibleOhio's failed attempt at marijuana reform this past election? According to an analysis by Mike Dawson, a Columbus-based election statistics expert, well-to-do suburbanites represented the group with the highest amount of opponents to the measure. Nearly 70 percent of voters in the suburbs of Toledo and Columbus voted against it, while 60 percent of Dayton, Cleveland and Cincinnati suburbanites opposed it. Urban voters favored the legalization 5 percentage points more. While many opposed Issue 3 because it limited the growth of marijuana to just 10 commercial farms, Dawson told the Associated Press that suburbanites also fear that marijuana will be a gateway drug in their communities.
• Cincinnati ranks as one of the best cities in the U.S. for beer drinkers. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has spent time in this city with its many breweries, beer-centered bars and massive Oktoberfest that rivals Munich, but the website SmartAsset ranked Cincy as number 10 in the U.S. It beat out Columbus and Cleveland in the ranking, having 14 breweries and 4.7 microbreweries per 100,000 people. With the average beer costing a mere $3 a pint, I'll drink to that.
Cleveland police officers involved in the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice will not face criminal charges related to the child’s death, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office announced today.
A grand jury has been deliberating for months about the case, which has grabbed national attention as debate continues over police-involved shootings of people of color.
Rice was shot Nov. 22, 2014 while on a playground in Cleveland. A 911 caller reported that Rice was playing with a handgun, but told a dispatcher that it appeared to be fake. The dispatcher did not relay that information to officers. Surveillance footage shows the officers pulling within feet of Rice in a police cruiser. In the video, officer Timothy Loehmann exits the passenger side of the cruiser and shoots Rice within a few seconds. Loehmann and his partner, officer Frank Garmback, do not provide medical attention to Rice, instead waiting for an FBI agent to do so. Rice later died at the hospital.
Other cases of police-involved shootings, including July 19 shooting death of motorist Samuel DuBose by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, have moved more quickly. Tensing was indicted on murder and manslaughter charges later that summer.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty has said the long process was about doing a thorough investigation. But members of Rice’s family have said they think McGinty is making efforts to protect the officers and the Cleveland Police Department.
In a statement released following the grand jury's decision, the family accused McGinty of "abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment."
The family has held a dim view of the outcome of the case for months. The Rices cried foul, for instance, at a March court filing from the city of Cleveland which stated that Rice was responsible for his death, saying it was caused by “failure to exercise due care to avoid injury.”
The city later apologized for the wording of the legal document.
“In an attempt to protect all of our defenses, we used words and we phrased things in such a way that was very insensitive,” Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson said at a news conference. “Very insensitive to tragedy in general, the family and the victim in particular.”
McGinty commissioned three law enforcement experts to draw up reports about the incident, all of which found the shooting “reasonable,” citing Loehmann’s lack of knowledge about Rice’s intentions and the realistic-looking pellet gun he was playing with.
But there are questions about the objectivity of those investigations.
Retired FBI training specialist Kimberly A. Crawford issued one of those reports. Attorneys for Rice’s family have pointed out that Crawford’s arguments for the acceptability of other law enforcement shootings have been rejected by the Department of Justice for being too lenient to officers. Another investigator, Denver District Deputy Attorney S. Lamar Sims, has made previous statements in support of Loehmann’s actions before undertaking his study.
While the Rice family’s attorneys cite these moves by the city and prosecutor McGinty as reasons to move the grand jury deliberations outside Cuyahoga County, McGinty has said that his office and the grand jury are impartial.
Officials with the prosecutor's office cited a "perfect storm of human error" and suggested that Rice looked much older than a typical 12-year-old when explaining the grand jury's verdict. The prosecutor's office also said that tapes show Rice pointing the toy gun at passersby near the recreation center earlier in the day.
Two other experts hired by the Rice family issued reports saying Rice’s killing was not justified and that officers responsible should be prosecuted. They point out the short succession of events and the fact that Rice did not have the gun in his hand at the time of his shooting. The toy was tucked in his pants at the time.
Rice’s death occurred just two days before a grand jury in St. Louis, Mo., declined to indict a white officer who shot unarmed 19-year-old Michael Brown. Like Brown, Rice has become a touchstone for activists who protest racially charged police shootings and who call for law enforcement reforms in the United States.
According to data culled by journalists at British publication The Guardian, more than 1,000 people have been killed in officer-involved shootings in the United States this year, including 30 in Ohio, the seventh-most of any state. Blacks are twice as likely as whites to die in those incidents. While a good number of those deaths came from armed confrontations, many others involved unarmed citizens.
Rice’s shooting happened just weeks before the Department of Justice released the scathing results of an 18-month investigation into the Cleveland Police Department’s use of force. Among the cases cited in that investigation: a 2012 incident in which 13 police officers fired almost 140 rounds at two unarmed occupants of a car that had been involved in a police chase. One officer reportedly stood on the hood of the couple's car and repeatedly fired rounds through its windshield. That officer was acquitted of criminal charges in May. Both occupants of the car died.
“We have concluded that we have reasonable cause to believe that CPD engages in a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the report states. The report triggered an intensive consent decree between the Cleveland Police Department and the federal government, which will oversee changes in the department's use of force policies, training and other reforms.
In a letter earlier this month, Rice’s family called on the DOJ to investigate their son’s death. The DOJ said Dec. 15 that it is reviewing that request.
In Cincinnati, Black Lives Matter will rally Dec. 29 at 6 pm at Findlay Playground in Over-the-Rhine. Organizers ask attendees to bring toys to donate to local charities in honor of Rice.
Good morning all. Hope your holidays have been good and, if you’re into the giving and receiving gifts thing, that you got and gave some good ones. So what’s up with news?
Greater Cincinnati’s transgender community will gather this morning at 10 a.m. at the Woodward Theater in Over-the-Rhine to remember Leelah Alcorn, the teen who took her own life one year ago today by stepping into traffic on I-71 near Mason. An online note auto-published after her death described the isolation and depression Alcorn felt over her treatment by her parents and peers because of her transgender status. That note challenged others to “fix society” and make it a more accepting place for people with non-binary gender identities. Cincinnati has made some progress toward that end: Cincinnati City Council passed a ban on so-called conversion therapy for minors. That therapy seeks to turn LGBT people straight and is usually religiously based. Councilors in Cincinnati who practice that therapy on minors will receive a $200 fine. Cincinnati is the first city in the country to pass such a ban. Many transgender activists in the city say that’s a good start, but isn’t enough. They’re calling for increased help and protection for transgender people, especially the most vulnerable trans groups — people of color and minors who have become homeless because of their status. A number of trans people across the country in those vulnerable groups have been murdered in recent years.
• Local news is a little slow this week, but plenty is happening statewide. Let’s zoom out for a minute. Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld continues to make the rounds in Ohio as he seeks to become the Democratic party’s nominee in the race for Republican Rob Portman’s U.S. Senate seat. Meanwhile, former Ohio governor and Dem frontrunner Ted Strickland has played a quieter waiting game, appearing at a few small events and releasing little in the way of policy statements or other missives aimed at wading into the political fray. That’s probably strategic: Polling shows Strickland, a well-known political force throughout Ohio, has carried a lead over incumbent Portman even as Sittenfeld trails both. Still, some statewide political figures are saying Strickland needs to start bringing substantive ideas to his campaign as Sittenfeld hits him with criticisms on gun control, climate change and other progressive issues. The Democratic underdog has also challenged Strickland to debates, but the frontrunner has so far been mum about facing off. Political experts believe Strickland will continue to ignore Sittenfeld unless he makes inroads with prospective voters.
• Is the Ohio legislature truly representative of the state? If you break it down demographically, it would seem not. Among those least represented in the state house: women, who make up 51 percent of Ohio’s population but hold just 25 percent of its legislative seats. Other groups, including Hispanics, are also under-represented, according to a report in the Dayton Daily News. It’s more than just a numbers game — the lack of representation means that public policy doesn’t take into account Ohio’s various populations and perspectives.
“With someone not in the room, a group not in the room representing different genders, sexual orientations, races — it’s a bunch of people guessing what that must be like,” state Rep. Dan Ramos told the paper. Ramos, a Democrat from Loraine, is one of just three Hispanic members to ever serve in the Ohio General Assembly. Though the state house has slowly become more representative over time, there is still a long way to go, some lawmakers say. That will take big social changes. Women are just as likely to win elections as men, some studies suggest, but are less likely to be in a position to run for office in the first place due to societal gender roles, parenting responsibilities and other factors.
• A grand jury decision could come any day in the case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old with a toy gun shot by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann last November, the Associated Press reports. But the Rice family believes Loehmann won’t be charged in the shooting, according to their attorney, who has accused Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty of using the grand jury proceedings to “engineer denying justice” to the family. It’s been well over a year since the shooting, which was sparked by a 911 call from a man waiting for a bus. That call stipulated that the gun Rice had was probably fake, but a dispatcher didn’t relay that information to officers. The cruiser Loehmann was riding in stopped just feet from Rice. Loehmann jumped out and shot the boy within seconds of exiting the vehicle. The grand jury has heard testimony from experts convened by McGinty, who say the shooting was reasonable given what Loehmann knew about the situation, and other experts gathered by the Rice family who say Loehmann should be charged with the child’s death. The case has received national attention as police shootings of black citizens continue to rouse protests and calls for change.
• Will Ohio governor and GOP presidential hopeful John Kasich’s fortunes turn around in the wild world of the Republican presidential primary? At least one poll suggests there might be a glimmer of hope yet for the perpetual presidential underdog. A new Quinnipiac poll out of New Hampshire has Kasich third only to Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the state, which holds the country’s second primary Feb. 9. That’s a big step up for Kasich — he was running sixth in New Hampshire earlier this month. In the past weeks, Kasich has stepped up his ground game in the state with more campaign staff and appearances there. The Kasich campaign has gone all-in on New Hampshire, indicating if the candidate doesn’t do well there, he may well pack it in and call it a day. But even as Kasich makes some progress in the Granite State, he’s still struggling in Iowa, another vital state hold its primary Feb. 1.
Jeb Bush (Republican)
Jeb Bush isn’t his actual name, his first name is an acronym for his full name, John Ellis Bush. Oh, and as of right now JebBush.com forwards you to Donald Trump’s official campaign site.
What’s up with the campaign?
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush was to be the Republican front-runner. Going into this election, everyone assumed it would come down to “Bush vs. Clinton.” He was a little late to announce his candidacy, but he still entered the race largely before the nation knew who Dr. Ben Carson was and before Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) was considered a heavyweight.
The majority of Republican primary voters seem to have an appetite for an outsider candidate, someone who hasn’t already been poisoned by the wells of the Washington machine. Nothing in the GOP field is more establishment than a candidate from the Bush family, which is one of the most well-connected families in the country. Bush has been suffering in the polls, fighting for scraps at the bottom with Chris Christie.
Voters might like:
● He can govern! Jeb Bush served as the governor of Florida from 1998 to 2007.
● Republicans need Latino support in this election and that demographic’s importance only grows with time. Jeb speaks fluent Spanish and has used it on the campaign trail. He’s also for immigration reform.
● Jeb is a conservative in the sense that he values a limited government, but he is a far cry from the unorthodox rhetoric from the far-right. He acknowledges climate change, isn’t disruptive and doesn’t build a platform out of heated rhetoric. Jeb is calm, cool and collected.
...but watch out for:
● His background governing could also be his biggest weakness. Republicans are aggressively anti-government in this election. Anyone who has so much as ran for dog-catcher is suspect.
● Jeb is pro common core. In Boston he lashed out against common-core opponents saying, "criticisms and conspiracy theories are easy attention grabbers." Conservatives often view common core as destructive and as government overreach. Other candidates like Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey that originally supported the controversial education standards have retreated to the opposition.
● Jeb is also really, really boring. Jeb’s performance has been subpar at best in the debates. It might be more of a commentary on the media and America’s shallowness, but this election has exclusively rewarded showmanship. Look no further than Donald Trump.
Biggest policy proposal:
One of the only concrete proposals by Jeb Bush is entitlement reform. His campaign rolled out plans on raising the retirement age beyond 67 by increasing the age by one month every year starting in 2028. He also wants to eliminate the 6.2 percent payroll tax to seniors who work beyond their retirement age.
Bush wants to intensify the war against the Islamic State by using conventional ground troops, saying in a speech at The Citadel, a military college, “We need to intensify our efforts in the air — and on the ground."
What are the primaries?
They are elections in which the parties pick their strongest candidate to run for president. For instance, if you are a Republican, you will pick from your field of candidates (Trump, Rubio, Carson and so on) to challenge the Democratic candidate.
When are the primaries?
In Ohio, Election Day is Tuesday, March 15, 2016. The overall election starts in February with Iowa, and each state votes at a different time. Some states don’t vote until the summer.
I heard about caucuses, what are those?
Ohio doesn’t have a caucus. You only need to worry about that if you live in a state like Iowa. Essentially, a caucus is a gathering of a bunch of citizens in a room, and they physically stand on each side of the room and debate which candidate to pick. All the sides of the room represent support for a single candidate. The physical number of people in on the sides of the room is counted at the end to decide to victor.
Who can vote?
Some states have closed primaries, meaning only official members of a political party can vote. Don’t worry about this, Ohioans — you live in an open primary state, meaning anyone can vote for any candidate.
At the polls, you will be asked which party you want to vote for and given a ballot with those respective options. If you are voting for a different party than you did last election, you’ll fill out a simple form declaring party affiliation. You can of course easily change this next election.
Your right to vote in a primary is not guaranteed in the law. This is why these rules vary and are dictated by parties. This also put some standard voting regulation up in the air. States like Ohio allow 17-year-olds to vote in the primary so long as they turn 18 on or before the general election.
What are the parties?
The Democratic and Republican parties have been the meat and potatoes of American politics for centuries. You can look into the Green or Constitution Party, but the U.S. has been a two-party country since day one.
When do I have to be registered?
Ohioans have to be registered 30 days before primaries to participate. Let's set Valentine's Day as your deadline.
Good morning, all. Here’s a quick rundown of the news before a retreat into a hole to finish all the things I need to finish so I can then finish my holiday shopping.
Some people like Joe Deters, Hamilton County’s prosecutor. That’s none of my business. But do they like him enough to check his name on a ballot twice? That could be the situation voters face next year in the Hamilton County commission race for a seat current commission head Republican Greg Hartmann will vacate on Monday. Kinda. Joe’s running for reelection as prosecutor, and his brother, Dennis Deters, is running in next year's race for the seat against well-known Democrat Denise Driehaus. However, he’s registered for that race as Dennis Joseph Deters. That’s raised the ire of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, which has called the move a cheap trick aimed at capitalizing on the Republican prosecutor’s name recognition among county voters. They point out that on property records and past registrations, the commissioner candidate has listed his name as Dennis P. Deters. Dems fired off a letter to the Ohio Secretary of State yesterday seeking to block Dennis Deters from using “Joseph” on the ballot. This is going to be a very interesting race, folks.
• A long-time anchor in the Clifton business district will get new life starting in February. Grocery cooperative Clifton Market has closed on a nearly $3 million construction loan from the National Cooperative Bank, allowing it to move forward with plans to establish a co-operative grocery store. The rest of the more than $5 million project has been funded by more than 1,000 share holders and nearly 200 shareholder loans to the co-op. The project will also get a 12-year tax exemption passed by Cincinnati City Council earlier this month. The grocery will occupy the former Keller’s IGA building on Ludlow Avenue, which will see construction starting Feb. 1. The store should be open by next summer.
• While I may be panicked about my holiday shopping, I’m not as panicked as the folks who drove a van through a display window at Saks Fifth Avenue downtown this morning in a pretty ballsy smash-and-grab scheme. The perps then jumped into another waiting car with about $11,000 in purses and sped off Police are looking for them now. Have no fear, holiday luxury item shoppers. Saks Fifth Avenue is apparently open, albeit with extra police presence.
• Kentucky marriage licenses will no longer carry the name of the county clerk who issued them after an executive order from brand new governor Republican Matt Bevin. That order comes after Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis raised controversy over this summer’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Davis claimed her religious rights are violated by that court order, and that her name on a marriage license for a gay couple is a sin. The resulting legal battle over Davis’ refusal to issue licenses landed her in jail briefly. Bevin promised that he would enact the executive order during his campaign for governor, which some political pundits say may have influenced staunch social conservatives to turn out and vote for him. Now, 15 days into his term, Bevin has made good on that promise.
• As you may know, Cincinnati has gained population for the first time in decades over recent years. But that trend doesn’t hold true for the rest of the Buckeye State. A recent study found Ohio among the biggest losers when it came to population loss among states. Though we’re not as bad as New York, which lost an incredible 653,000 people (though, hey, they also have a ton of people) to domestic migration. Now, New York’s population still grew slightly in that same time period due to births and immigration from other countries. But alas. Ohio lost the sixth-most population to domestic migration last year, with about 150,000 people streaming out to greener pastures or, well, probably actually Texas or Florida or something. Those states topped the list when it came to gaining population from migration. Texas gained more than 735,000 people, for example.
• Finally, here's your daily update on the presidential election that hasn't even really started yet but is already driving me crazy. A few days ago, Donald Trump used the word “schlonged” to describe Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Democratic primary defeat to Barack Obama. We all know this by now. But, did you know that “schlonged” isn’t actually a dirty word, according to The Donald? No, the dishonest and godless horde of journalists who exist simply to oppress Trump have merely distorted your view of the word, according to the GOP presidential primary candidate. It doesn’t actually mean male genitalia at all. It simply means to defeat badly, according to Trump, and it is his enemies in the media who want to tell you otherwise. Of course. Trump’s use of the word, which is indeed a slang term for, uh, male genitalia, set off a new round of controversy over the outspoken and many say factually challenged candidate. So far, Trump’s dalliances with both sexist language and sheer disregard for factual information have done nothing to his poll numbers: He’s still the frontrunner in the GOP primary.
The Grown-up Debate
Regardless of where you fall on the partisan spectrum, you have to acknowledge this debate was a stark contrast against the last Republican debate.
The last time we saw the GOP duke it out it was overflowing with silly rhetoric about “bombing the shit” out of ISIS, despite the current air campaign being so aggressive the U.S. military has a munitions shortage.
Instead of having an intellectually honest debate, most of the GOP were beating the drums to another ground war, inflating the surveillance state against Americans and, in Trump’s case, proposing the U.S. murder the families of suspected terrorists.
Only Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was questioning the foreign policy grandstanding and challenging his competition on “liberal military spending.”
Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley all came equipped Saturday with specific policies and answers to issues both foreign and domestic.
Most debates have clear standouts. This third Democratic debate was different. Every candidate was at their best. It’s unlikely anyone jumped ship from one candidate to another here.
Clinton played centrist politics, Sanders maintained his populist momentum with his progressive agenda and O’Malley stayed center-left and laid out his resume from his governor experience.
Those on the fence were able to clearly see who each of these candidates were and the values of the Democratic Party.
The Democratic Civil War Was Brushed Off in Minutes
Clinton’s campaign on Friday accused the Sanders team of inappropriately accessing its voter data, and the Sanders campaign turned the blame on the vendor for a shoddy firewall. The Democratic National Committee banned the Vermont senator’s team from accessing critical voter data and the campaign sued the DNC to restore its access.
The Sanders staffer that wrongfully accessed Clinton’s private voter data was fired and two more staffers have been terminated since the debate.
Sen. Bernie Sanders kicked off the debate delivering an apology both to Hillary Clinton and his supporters, saying this breach of integrity isn’t the sort of campaign he runs.
Clinton Battles Trump
As a major Democratic candidate in a room full of allies, Clinton has virtually unlimited ammunition against the GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. She put on her general election hat and targeted the real-estate tycoon’s questionable policy of banning Muslim immigrants.
"Mr. Trump has a great capacity to use bluster and bigotry to inflame people and to make them think there are easy answers to very complex questions," she said.
Sanders and O’Malley also came out in strong opposition to Trump’s immigration policy proposal, a position that most Democratic voters will likely agree with.
However, Clinton took this a step further saying Trump’s rhetoric is actively used as an ISIS recruiting tool.
“He is becoming ISIS’
best recruiter,” Clinton said. “They are going to people showing videos of
Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical
Critics of Trump say his anti-Muslim rhetoric could help the terror group in its recruitment, which is very believable. However, it’s unclear whether such a video exists.
Palmieri, communications director of the Clinton campaign, told George
Stephanopoulos that the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors the activity of
terror organizations, said that terrorists are using Trump in social media as
propaganda to help recruit supporters.
Palmieri admitted that the former secretary of state “didn’t have a particular
video in mind.”
Politicians lying or exaggerating the truth is obligatory. But it’s lazy for a candidate as experienced as Hillary Clinton to attack a candidate as controversial as Donald Trump with lies.
Maybe you don’t like the agenda of these three powerhouse candidates, but they do bring specifics to the table. Sen. Sanders talked about his college tuition reform, calling for public universities to be free and paid for with a tax on Wall Street speculation.
Clinton doesn’t believe college should be free, but instead wants to tackle student debt.
The Vermont senator also brought up the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Workers would be eligible to collect benefits equal to 66 percent of their typical monthly wages for 12 weeks, with a capped monthly maximum amount of $1,000 per week.
He also openly talked about and supported Gillibrand's increase of payroll taxes for workers and companies by 0.2 percent, or about $1.38 a week for the median wage earner.
Clinton was very adamant about not increasing taxes with rhetoric inspired by George Bush Sr.’s “read my lips” line.
O’Malley and Sanders both attacked Clinton’s
foreign policy, saying that she is too quick to support regime change and for
her support of the invasion of Iraq.
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines.
• So maybe many of us are getting ready to sit back, relax and take a few days off for the holidays, but not Cincinnati's newest police chief, Eliot Isaac. Isaac was sworn in as Cincinnati's first black police chief last night at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. In a ceremony witnessed by more than 200 people, Isaac told the crowd the recent uptick in violence was "unacceptable," and, according to the Enquirer, said, "Tomorrow morning, we roll up our sleeves and we go to work." Isaac was officially offered the position by city manager Harry Black two weeks ago after going through a brief community vetting process. He was the only candidate for the position.
• While Chief Eliot was being sworn in last night, Cincinnati police officers were also voting Fraternal Order of Police President Kathy Harrell out of her position. In a vote of 2-1, Harrell was replaced by Dan Hils, a sergeant in District Three who has spent 28 years with the department. Harrell has served as president for the last six years and was pulled out into the spotlight when former CPD chief Jeffrey Blackwell was fired last September. Hils ran a campaign centered around officers' pay, which appear to be increasing as revenue is decreasing. Apparently, it paid off for him. He beat Harrell in a vote of 507 to 207.
• Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann has just announced this morning that he will resign some time next week. Hartmann recently announced he was not running for re-election last month, but said he expected to finish out his term. The move clears the way for the GOP's executive committee to appoint a replacement to finish out his term. Attorney Dennis Deters has filed to run as a Republican candidate and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters also said he's considering throwing his hat in the ring against Democratic State Rep Denise Driehaus who is leaving her position at the State House because of term limits.
• I'm currently experiencing my first Cincinnati winter, and so far compared to Minnesota, where I grew up, it's nothing, but I've heard it can get pretty chilly. But maybe this is one of the reasons Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman applied for the position of city manager of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Virginia Beach media has reported that he is one of the two finalists for the job. Sigman came close to being fired by the county board earlier this year, and Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said that people generally only last a few years in Sigman's position. So maybe his interest in the position isn't weather-related after all.
• Last-minute Christmas shopping is hard with the crowds, full parking lots and general aggression the holiday season brings out in all of us, but add racial profiling on top of that, and it makes Christmas trips to the mall nearly impossible. Bengals running back James Wilder Jr. says he was out shopping at a Toys R Us in Florence, Ky. yesterday when he claims a store manager accused him of stealing. Wilder posted several tweets and a video claiming a store manager stopped him just after he arrived and accused him of trying to walk out of the store with a cart full of toys earlier. Wilder said he was at least able to buy the video game he needed for his nephew before leaving the store.
Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey met with great success when they created next to normal, winning several Tony Awards and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama. They didn’t strike gold with their next show, If/Then, onstage locally for just a week in a touring production — but I found it to be a very satisfying, if complex work. (Read my Curtain Call interview with Kitt and Yorkey here.) Elizabeth is recently divorced and trying to decide what path to take next. She asks herself musically “What If” she takes this path or that — and this show lets us follow her down two divergent threads, one toward a successful professional career as a city planner in New York, the other in a happy marriage with kids that doesn’t quite turn out as she imagined. Her stories are presented in overlapping narratives, since some moments and events are quite close. It requires paying close attention, but it’s definitely worth the effort. It’s made all the easier by a very strong cast — including Jackie Burns in the leading role, Broadway veteran Anthony Rapp as Lucas, one of her close friends (he originated the role on Broadway Lucas and played videographer Mark in the original cast of Rent back in 1996) and Tamyra Gray as Kate, who pushes Elizabeth in a different direction. The show’s inventive staging, using video and fluidly moving set pieces, is also a fine example of contemporary theater design. Definitely worth seeing. Onstage through Sunday.
In BlackTop Sky at Know Theatre, Ida’s view from an asphalt-paved courtyard surrounded by the housing project where she lives isn’t pretty. The 18-year-old yearns to escape, but her avenues are limited. The safe, predictable route is with Wynn, her boyfriend, a hardworking auto mechanic. Then there’s Klass, an all-but-inarticulate homeless man who settle on two park benches. Ida is caught between these two poles. This is a show about lives that are pretty dead-end. Nevertheless, Christina Anderson’s script has its moments, especially with Kimberly Faith Hickman’s purposeful staging of 34 distinct scenes, several of them entirely wordless. Anderson writes with occasional lyricism and feeling, but desperation underlies these sad stories. That being said, the telling holds out a promise of change. That’s an important if not altogether entertaining message. Onstage through Feb. 20.
Also at Know, the fourth outing of Serials gets under way on Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. They’ve dubbed this one Thunderdome 2 – Beyond Thunder, meaning that each evening two of the five shows will be voted out by the audience, to be replaced by two new shows at the following session. Serials 4 features some writers and directors who entertained audiences in previous iterations of Serials. But several new talents have entered the fray, and the Know staff tells me, “There are some seriously strong story pitches this round!” They feel that the “gentle competition” of Thunderdome leads to stronger writing and a better audience experience. Writers who take the challenge must leap quickly into their narratives; if they lag behind, they’ll be struck by a thunderclap and end up in the audience at the next round. Subsequent episodes are set for Feb. 22, March 7 and 21 and April 4.
Finally: If you’re tuned in to the Super Bowl on Sunday evening, keep an eye out for a 30-second commercial for Gold Star Chili. It was shot locally, featuring 15 Cincinnati actors at several Gold Star locations. Ensemble Theatre’s Lynn Meyers did the casting for it, so you’ll see some familiar faces often featured on local stages.
That investigation didn't find any fetal tissue sales at the organization's Ohio clinics, but DeWine did announce that it appeared as if Planned Parenthood was violating state law by contracting with a company that autoclaved, or steam-treated, fetal tissue and then dumped it in landfills.
However, in an investigation published yesterday by Columbus WBNS-10TV, Lanny Brannock, spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection, says intact fetuses were not disposed of in landfills there. What's more, Brannock says Ohio investigators never spoke to anyone at the facilities nor visited them during the course of their investigation.
“It is illegal to landfill any human tissue in Kentucky, and by law it’s required to be incinerated," Brannock said. "We have no knowledge of any human tissue going into Kentucky landfills."
The investigation also shows that the state contracts with the same disposal company, Kentucky-based Accu Medical Waste Services, Inc., to dispose of medical waste. That contract includes state prisons, where inmates occasionally suffer miscarriages.
Morning all. Here’s what’s up in the news today.
Hamilton County Democratic Party’s executive commission last night voted not to censure Ben Lindy, a candidate to replace Denise Driehaus as state representative. But the party also had strong words about a paper Lindy authored that is currently in being used in a legal attack against teachers’ unions. Controversy erupted last week when party leaders found out that the paper, which Lindy wrote while studying at Yale University, is currently being used by anti-union groups in a pivotal U.S. Supreme Court case that could endanger collective bargaining arrangements for labor groups. Lindy says he supports unions and doesn’t agree with the suit. He’s facing other Democrats, including fellow Hyde Park resident Brigid Kelly, in the party’s primary to run for Ohio's District 31 state representative seat.
• I love going to Findlay Market, but like a lot of people, one of the big challenges I have is that I can’t get quite everything I need there. But that could change soon. Owners of current Findlay vendors Fresh Table are planning a new micro-grocery just across from the historic market. In addition to having a lunch counter, the store will feature hygiene items and other products that will help round out Findlay’s offerings. The store aims to serve people of all incomes and should be open by September, according to owners Meredith Trombly and Louis Snowden.
• A recent study shows that Cincinnati ranks favorably among the country’s biggest 100 cities when it comes to prosperity, but that it lags well behind when it comes to extending that prosperity beyond whites. The city ranked 18th in a Brookings Institution study released last week when it came to prosperity, but 81st in racial economic inclusion. We've checked out that study in-depth here.
• A men’s rights group whose leader has in the past advocated for rape legalization has cancelled plans for rallies around the world, including one near Cincinnati. Return of Kings, which was founded by 36-year-old Roosh Valizadeh, had planned numerous get-togethers for its so-called “tribesmen” this Saturday at 8 p.m. across the United States and as far away as Australia. Valizadeh has authored blog posts on the group’s website calling for women to be stripped of the right to vote and for rape to be legalized on private property. Valizadeh cited safety concerns for the cancellations. Feminist activists in Cincinnati called that “ironic,” saying that ROK represented the only threat to peoples’ safety in the area and that the group perpetuates rape culture.
• In the wake of its second student suicide in as many months, Cincinnati Public Schools is expanding its anti-suicide efforts. The push comes as community leaders highlight a crisis in teen suicide in the region, especially in its black communities. CPS has sent home suicide prevention guidelines and resources for parents. Meanwhile, faith leaders and others in those communities are working on long-term strategies to address that crisis.
• Finally, another night, another presidential primary debate. This time it was Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton who tussled. Their past debates have been markedly civil compared to the Republican primary debates’ circus-like atmosphere, but the gloves have finally come off.
That meant lengthy (and annoying) semantic debates about the words “progressive” and “establishment” that mirror similar ideological pissing contests within the Republican Party. Unencumbered by flagging third candidate former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Sanders and Clinton were able to really go at it. But sandwiched in between the jabs traded back and forth there was some substance to the discussion.
Clinton came out well ahead on foreign policy, her home turf issue — she was U.S. Secretary of State, after all — with Sanders tripping over whether North Korea had one or multiple dictators. Seriously, man? Sanders, however, seemed to gain an upper hand on domestic issues around the economy, which is really the core of his campaign. He was able to land some substantive blows against Clinton when it came to her support from financial industry bigwigs, calling her out for donations and $100,000 speaking fees she’s received from big banks and other financial institutions. Sanders says should be more regulated by government.
Clinton called those questions an “artful smear” of her campaign, though she balked at promising to release transcripts of paid speeches she gave to those financial institutions, saying only that she would “look into it.” I say “I’ll look into it” when there is no chance in the world I’m going to do whatever it is I’m supposed to be looking into, but that’s just me.
And I’m out. Hit me on Twitter or via email.
A group of so-called "men's rights" activists led by a blogger who once advocated the legalization of rape has cancelled a word-wide series of meetups, including one near Cincinnati.
Return of Kings founder Roosh Valizadeh, 36, wrote on the group's website that all meetups, which had been scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday across the U.S. and as far away as Australia, would be cancelled due to safety concerns for men who might attend.
"I can no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to
attend on February 6, especially since most of the meetups can not be
made private in time," a statement on the website says. Cincinnati's meetup was scheduled to take place near I-75 on Sharon Road near a gas station.
The supposed meetups caused anger, and sometimes fear, in many communities, including Cincinnati. Pushback across the country appears to have triggered the cancellations. Local feminist activists here set up strategy meetings for the best way to protest the group, which has published articles with titles such as "Women Should not be Allowed to Vote" and "Make Rape Legal on Private Property."
Roosh says that article was satire, but activists say his group represents a toxic and dangerous movement. Local activist group the Cincinnati Radical Feminist Collective called the cancellation "ironic," since Valizadeh's group threatens the safety of women and members of the LGBT community.
“The Cincinnati Radical Feminist Collective embraces a culture of consent," Cincinnati Radical Feminist Collective member Abby Friend said in a statement today in response to the events' cancellation. "Return of Kings (ROK), the group planning the now-cancelled Saturday pro-rape rally, is a blatant representation of the problems inherent in a culture that casually accepts sexual harassment, sexual assault, homophobia and rape."
As the economy continues to rebound from the Great Recession and as interest in urban living continues to build, many cities across the country are seeing a rebound in their fortunes. But who benefits from this resurgence?
A new study from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program released last week seeks to provide some answers to that question in 100 cities around the country by measuring economic activity in each from 2009 to 2014. Cincinnati’s results in that study are simultaneously promising and troubling.
The Queen City ranks squarely in the middle of those 100 cities when it comes to overall economic growth. But there’s more to the picture than just raw economic activity. The Brookings study also considered prosperity: that is, the degree to which increases in economic activity benefit individuals; and inclusion, which is defined by how much that prosperity extends across different groups of people.
Cincinnati ranked well on those two measures — 18th and 19th, respectively. But there are some caveats to those rankings. What’s more, the city ranks near the bottom of the list — 81st — when it comes to racial inclusion in economic prosperity.
What does each category measure? Brookings' prosperity ranking considers productivity, average annual wage and the standard of living in each city. Inclusion measures the median wage, relative poverty — or poverty measured by the percentage of people below 50 percent of the area median wage — and employment rate in each city. The study’s racial inclusion research considered those factors for non-white groups in each city.
It’s worth noting that economic inclusion is actually trending downward in many cities across the country and that a high ranking doesn’t mean cities are necessarily headed in the right direction. Eighty of the 100 cities in the study saw wages fall. Fifty-three saw relative poverty rise. Cincinnati’s relatively high ranking on the inclusion list comes even though median wages here have fallen in the past five years by 1.4 percent and are still below the levels they were at in 1999. There’s good news, too, of course: The number of jobs and standards of living are up and relative poverty here fell from its Great Recession peak in 2009 through 2013. But that number began rising again in 2014.
Thus, overall inclusion in Cincinnati post-recession can be described as a mixed bag at best, though we’re clearing faring better than many other major cities.
That is, except for one very important category. The most troubling numbers for Cincinnati come from the study’s ranking of how economically inclusive cities are by race. Here, the city is at the bottom of the heap, though it should be noted that five other Ohio cities — Cleveland, Columbus, Youngstown, Dayton and Akron — are ranked even lower. That begs a question for another day: Why are Ohio cities so economically segregated? Statewide policy probably plays some role, but there might be other factors at play.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati's ranking is low for a very simple reason: because wages here are going down for blacks and up for whites, while poverty levels in the city do the inverse.
Median yearly wages for non-whites in the city fell from $25,081 to $24,202 between 2009 and 2014, even as wages for whites rose from $32,714 to $35,295. That’s a 3.5 percent drop compared to an 8 percent gain. What’s more, relative poverty among non-whites in Cincinnati rose from 33 percent to 37 percent in that time period, while poverty for whites fell from 27.5 percent to 25.7 percent. Poverty for non-whites in Cincinnati increased by 4 percent and decreased for whites by nearly 2 percentage points.
What that means is that the economic gaps already present in Cincinnati are rising. There have been efforts to address this — new development aimed at low-income residents in neighborhoods like Avondale, for instance, and the city's recently created Department of Economic Inclusion.
Beyond all the numbers, though, the continuing disparity is causing a great deal of frustration in the community, as this week's Xavier University town hall discussion on race relations in the aftermath of the 2001 civil unrest showed. As Brookings' study shows, the deeper economic issues many panelists and community members highlighted at that forum are real and growing.
Good morning all. Here’s a quick rundown of the news today.
Cincinnati City Council yesterday passed an ordinance that would punish employers who don’t pay their workers, making Cincinnati the first city in the state to do so. We told you about that ordinance earlier this week. The law would allow the city to better enforce federal and state prohibitions against wage theft, revoke tax incentives and other deals and also allow it, in certain cases, to bar a company caught stealing wages from future city contracts. The ordinance has received praise from progressive groups, and city officials say they’ve received requests for copies of the ordinance from other cities like Columbus.
Victims of wage theft, faith leaders, advocates with Cincinnati’s Interfaith Workers Center and even representatives from contracting groups spoke before the vote, encouraging Council to pass the legislation. The decision wasn’t without some controversy, however, as Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn moved to amend the language of the ordinance to stipulate that it apply only to those who are working legally in the U.S.
"Wage theft is wrong," Winburn said, but claimed the proposed legislation would "discourage undocumented workers from going through proper channels."
That brought about a flurry of resistance from other Council members.
"It's not even a question of immigration," Councilman Kevin Flynn, a Charterite, said. Flynn said the ordinance is simply about the city not doing business with companies that steal from employees.
Vice Mayor David Mann, who authored the ordinance, refused to accept the amendment. The law passed 7-2.
• Now that the cat’s out of the bag about a potential $680 million in under-scrutinized spending by Cincinnati’s Metropolitan Sewer District over a nearly 10-year period, officials with both the city and the county are scrambling to place blame. Both Hamilton County Commissioners and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley have called for extensive auditing of the MSD. The sewer district is run by the city but owned by the county, and both say the other is to blame after revelations that a big chunk of a federal court-ordered $3 billion sewer upgrade has been done without competitive bidding for contracts and with little oversight outside the department. Cranley has said that the misspending has taken place “right under the noses” of county commissioners, while commissioners claim they’ve been trying to get better control of the sewer district’s spending for years. Cranley also pointed to former City Manager Milton Dohoney, who gave former MSD Director Tony Parrot a huge degree of latitude in purchasing decisions in 2007.
• The Hamilton County Board of Elections voted yesterday to move its headquarters from downtown Cincinnati to a location in Norwood. The county’s lease on its current headquarters on Broadway is set to expire this year, and BOE officials say the new location is more central to the entire county. However, many have decried the move, including Mayor Cranley. Having the BOE headquarters, where early voting takes place, close to the county’s transit hub is vital for low-income voters, Cranley says. If the headquarters moves to Norwood, another early voting location should be setup near Government Square, Metro’s downtown hub, the mayor says. Two bus routes serve the proposed location in Norwood, though BOE board members point out the location has a lot of free parking. Hamilton County GOP Chair Alex Triantafilou, who sits on the BOE’s board, pointed to the unanimous decision by the four-member, bipartisan BOE board and said Cranley should “mind his own business” in response to the mayor’s criticism. This isn’t the first time a proposed move by the BOE has caused controversy. In 2014, it looked to move its headquarters to Mount Airy, though that plan was later scrapped.
• Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has coordinated closely with conservative right-to-life activists as he targets Planned Parenthood, a new investigation shows. DeWine exchanged congratulatory text messages and emails with the president of Ohio Right to Life. The group has also offered to share talking points and press materials with the AG and advisors to Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Officials with the organization say it’s not unusual for high-level state officials to be in touch with lobbyists and activists. “I’m not going to apologize for who my friends are,” pro-life lobbyist Mike Gonidakis told the Associated Press. But progressive groups and some government watchdogs have cried foul, saying the relationship between the AG and pro-life group is far too cozy.
• Here’s an interesting look by the Associated Press at the business costs of an anti-gay-rights backlash currently going on in Indiana’s state government. Generally conservative chamber of commerce members and state lawmakers there have become increasingly nervous about the state’s business prospects as the state fails to pass legislation banning discrimination against the LGBT community. The perception that Indiana is a place hostile to gays could hurt the resurgence of cities like Indianapolis, business leaders fear.
• Finally, thousands of Uber drivers plan to protest fare cuts by the company by disrupting Sunday’s Super Bowl in San Francisco. As many as 9,000 drivers are expected to congest the streets around Levi’s Stadium there as they decry changes to Uber’s policy that drivers say have left many of them making less than minimum wage. Smaller protests have already popped up in San Francisco and New York City, where on Feb. 1 coordinated demonstrations drew about 1,000 drivers each.
It’s the 15th century, and remnants of the Middle Ages hang over Europe as it unknowingly waits for the Renaissance. In the dim candlelight somewhere in Spain shines an altarpiece painted to depict the lives of St. Peter and Jesus Christ along with images of the Virgin Mary and other saints. With its impressive strokes of paint and gold and silver leaf, Lorenzo Zaragoza’s “Retablo of St. Peter” is remarkable to behold.
More than 600 years later, the altarpiece rests under the skilled hands of Cincinnati Art Museum’s chief conservator Serena Urry. With only the clack of museum visitor’s shoes disturbing the quiet peace, the setting resembles the serenity of the piece’s original home.
Zaragoza’s piece has stood the test of time, more or less. While it has been admired by thousands of Cincinnati Art Museum visitors since the museum purchased the piece in1960, it was taken off exhibit in 2010 due to its poor condition. It is now back on exhibit through April 24, as visitors can watch Urry bring the retablo to life again through cleaning all 18 of its panels.
It’s a two-in-one exhibit, giving visitors an insider’s look at the work done
by the museum’s conservation department while they view and learn about the
piece. Established in 1935, the museum’s conservation department is one of the
oldest in the country. Since then it has grown from one part-time paintings
conservator to four professionally trained conservators, each of whom have their
own specialization in paintings, paper, textiles or objects. The department is
in charge of conserving the museum’s entire collection (with the exception of
works that are on loan to the museum).
Urry proposed the exhibit because the retablo needed to be treated before it
could go back on view in the galleries. However, this is no small task — the
retouching is not expected to be complete for another few years. On view in the
exhibit is only the first step of the process: cleaning and consolidating.
Urry says determining the full condition of a piece of art before beginning its conservation treatment is the hardest part of conserving art. The two most important tenants that guide painting conservation are reversibility, which ensures that nothing will be done to the work that cannot be removed later, and dissimilarity, which means suing conservation materials that are not found in the original painting.
Of course, Uri’s conservation efforts are not the first for the retablo. With a piece of art this old, it is common for there to be many years of retouching — the first effort to conserve the retablo may have occurred around the early 1500s. It is believed that the central sculpture of St. Peter was created to replace the original lost piece.
Urry’s work includes using a variety of solvents, hand tools and a hot air gun to remove the effects of older retouching campaigns, such as discolored varnish and wax. This includes a layer of wax added by the Art Museum in 1960 to contain flaking. Since then it has become clouded with dust and grime, and the wax tinted to match the gold leaf of the painting has discolored to a greenish metallic hue.
After cleaning, painting conservation also involves structural treatments, such as modifying or replacing the canvas, its lining and stretcher. There may also be surface treatments done to conserve paintings, such as filling losses of paint, toning the fillings and adding layers of varnish.
“All of the paintings in a multi-piece work like this should be worked on together to ensure consistency,” Urry says. “The gallery space gives me an opportunity to have all of them on view as they are conserved.”
Hey hey Cincy! How are you all on this fine spring morning? Wait, it’s early February? Guess I better change out of these jean shorts and put the slip-n-slide away. Bummer. Be right back.
OK, where were we now? News. Right. Let’s get to it.
Last night Xavier University held a packed town hall discussion on the state of Cincinnati 15 years after the police shooting of unarmed black citizen Timothy Thomas and the civil unrest that shook the city afterward. Here’s my story about that ahead of a more in-depth dive later. I also live tweeted last night’s event and you can find quotes from panelists on my feed.
• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld has proposed a new measure aimed at increasing pedestrian and bicyclist safety, according to a news release sent out this morning. Sittenfeld’s proposed motion, which would ask the city to identify the area’s most dangerous intersections for non-car-drivers and present options aimed at mitigating the dangers there. Sittenfeld says his motion, which comes in the wake of a hit-and-run accident that killed a popular Cincinnati cyclist in Anderson last week, has support of the rest of Council. As a cyclist and a walking commuter, I very much hope the city follows through on this.
• A visit by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in East Price Hill has some members of the immigrant community and their advocates on edge. Agents with ICE showed up yesterday morning at an apartment complex that houses a few Central American immigrant families, and now some in the community fear the visit is the precursor to a larger raid by the agency tasked with enforcing America’s immigration laws. Late last year, the Obama administration announced it would begin more strictly enforcing those laws and deporting undocumented families who arrived after 2014. Several states have already seen raids from the agency.
• Cincinnati’s Metropolitan Sewer District spent hundreds of millions of dollars over nearly a decade without necessary city oversight, city documents and officials say, much of it through contracts to third parties for work it didn’t put up for competitive bids. The spending has its roots in a policy shift started in 2007 that gives large amounts of control to MSD director without proper oversight from city officials outside the department, according to this Cincinnati Enquirer story. City Manager Harry Black has vowed to change the way the department operates so that spending is more transparent and accountable.
• Welp, we’ve talked a lot about how Ohio Gov. John Kasich has his hopes pinned on New Hampshire as he chases the GOP presidential nomination. But then Iowa happened. Specifically, Republican young gun U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio didn’t do that terribly in the state’s caucus, the first contest in the country where primary voters pick their favorites for their party’s nominee. Rubio finished third behind surprise winner U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and real estate hustler Donald Trump.
Consensus among political pundits is that Cruz and Trump are unelectable, but that Rubio could consolidate support from establishment GOP power players, putting him in position to surge ahead in polls. That’s got political talking heads going all crazy like this (only replace “Ru-fi-o!” with “Ru-bi-o!”), which could make their punditry a self-fulfilling prophecy in places like… you guessed it… New Hampshire. Kasich has been doing markedly better in that state, which he has identified as his make-or-break stand. He’s scooped up the vast majority of newspaper endorsements there and is polling a strong third behind Trump and Cruz. But that could change if Rubio-mania continues. So will Kasich go on the offensive against the Florida senator, who has some pretty big weak spots in terms of his congressional attendance record, his personal finances and other issues? We’ll see. Primaries in New Hampshire are Feb. 9.
• Here’s a brief, but important presidential election update: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky suspended his presidential campaign this morning so he can focus on his Senate re-election bid. Once though to be a big contender this election, Paul’s less interventionist foreign policy ideas and criminal justice reform domestic policy ideas have failed to gain traction in a GOP primary race full of war-loving ideologues convinced a wave of illegal immigrants is coming to rob us blind. Go figure.
• Finally, we’ve seen a lot of journalism about how much the various presidential campaigns are raising in contributions, which PACs and Super PACs are spending millions on those candidates, and the like. But under-covered until now has been the little-known but completely vital pizza primary. How much has your choice for president spent on pizza? Spoiler alert: Ohio’s big queso Kasich hasn’t spent much dough on the cheesy stuff.
Xavier University held a packed town hall discussion last night on the state of Cincinnati 15 years after the police shooting of unarmed black citizen Timothy Thomas and the civil unrest that shook the city afterward.
Thomas was the 15th black Cincinnatian killed by police during the previous three years, and frustrations in the black community over those killings, and deep economic and social isolation, bubbled over in Over-the-Rhine and other neighborhoods around the city.
Even after a decade and a half, the town hall was as timely as ever: Last summer saw the death of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose at the hands of University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, and events in the past year and a half across the country have brought the issue of racially charged police violence front and center. As evidenced by the sometimes-contentious discussion last night, frustration remains even as Cincinnati has enacted some meaningful reforms in its approach to policing.
Charlie Luken, who was Cincinnati's mayor in 2001, gave introductory remarks to the crowd. Luken admitted that officials at the time were slow to pay attention to the signs of unrest.
“Our community, including me, was slow to grasp the depths of legitimate complaint," he said.
Luken said he doesn't condone violence but also called the unrest in 2001 “part of the American tradition.” He said activism during the unrest led to positive change, a significant shift from statements he made in 2001 when he remarked that “some of them seem to be out here just for the fun of it.”
Activist Iris Roley of the Black United Front argued that the historic Collaborative Agreement that came after the unrest by federal order was a positive step, but that much more work is still needed. For example, Roley advocated for expanded community presence for the Citizen’s Complaint Authority, which handles citizens’ complaints against officers under the city’s police reforms. In 2014, the last year for which data was available, complaints about discrimination rose by 100 percent from the year prior. Complaints about excessive use of force rose 30 percent and firearm discharge allegations rose by 60 percent. Only improper pointing of a firearm complaints went down, by 67 percent. Overall, allegations rose 39 percent over 2013, though those percentages are somewhat skewed by the small numbers involved. Of the 320 complaints filed with the authority, 67 were investigated.
"Children want to know what the people did for them," Roley said of Collaborative Agreement, which she says is still very relevant now. Still, “policing is so huge in the black community. I wish we could think about other things," Roley said, and, "it's more stressful now" because much of police oversight work is done at the city level, and less is in the hands of activists.
Rev. Damon Lynch III, a pastor in OTR in 2001 whose church has since moved to Roselawn, said police issues are just a part of the city’s race problem and that much of the rest of the racial disparity, including huge socioeconomic gaps, haven’t shifted in Cincinnati since 2001.
"Childhood poverty won't start the next civil unrest," he said, suggesting that the economic issues that set up those conditions are the real issue.
Civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein echoed Roley in his analysis that the Collaborative Agreement was a good step and that strategies like problem-oriented policing are better than previous law enforcement techniques even if larger systemic problems keep racial disparities in place.
“The original ask (in 2001) from my clients was addressing economic inequity,” Gerhardstein said of the fight the Black United Front and other activists waged in court over police reforms following Thomas’ death. “You can't sue capitalism. That's a problem."
Cincinnati Police Department District 4 Capt. Maris Harold, meanwhile, maintained that policing in Cincinnati has gotten remarkably better in the last two decades, touting what she calls the data-driven “science of policing,” which she says can result in fewer arrests by targeting the few violent criminals in an area.
“Policing is a paramilitary organization," and thus, all about strategy, Harold said. That strategy before 2001 was, "zero tolerance, arrest everything that moves," Harold said, but, “unless you're an irrational person, you have to realize the strategy wasn't working." She says police have since realized a small number of people commit violence and that to be effective they must narrow in on those individuals.
Black Lives Matter activist Brian Taylor, however, argued that a shift in police tactics can’t mask deeper problems and that the most powerful way to address those inequalities is through street-level activism. If policing is paramilitary, Taylor asked, “Who is the enemy? Racism is institutional, bound to the system on a molecular level." Taylor brought up the fact that officers who corroborated Tensing’s story around the shooting of DuBose this summer are still on the force and what he says are lingering questions around the CPD shooting of Quandavier Hicks last summer in Northside.
Audience members had loads of questions surrounding the deeper issues that sparked the unrest in 2001, including socioeconomic inequalities and lack of jobs and educational opportunities in the black community.
Many audience members also decried what they see as the inequitable development of Over-the-Rhine, which came about during the years following the unrest when then-mayor Luken helped put together the Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation. 3CDC and other developers have subsequently spent nearly $1 billion redeveloping OTR, in the process changing parts of the neighborhood from a low-income community into a more upscale enclave.