Good morning, Cincinnati! I'm back from Thanksgiving in Texas where the weather was actually colder and wetter than here. That's a definite win for the north. Here are your headlines:
Ever since Mayor John Cranley's park tax levy failed, the city has been looking for other ways to fund the highly anticipated Wasson Way bike trail — and it might be through the state of Ohio. Cranley and City Manager Harry Black sent a letter to the Cincinnati Business Committee asking it to ask the state for money to fund three segments of the trail between Montgomery Road and Eastern Hills Lane at Hyde Park Plaza. The four initial phases are estimated to cost $17.5 million, but the city is only asking the state to kick in $4.5 million, the cost of construction. The cost of the total project is still unknown, but some estimates put it around $23 million. The city estimates that with help from Ohio, the first three segments could be ready for biking in 12 months.
Speaking of bike trails, the city of Toledo presented a $32 million plan for 13 bike paths across the city. The project would disrupt some traffic by cutting a few four lane roads down to two lanes, which upset some Toledo residents, but was seen as necessary by the Toledo Department of Engineering to keep up with the times. One city administrator said bike lanes would help Toledo keep up with the competition between modern cities to offer residents a high quality of life.
Leaders from the Corporation for Findlay Market and Over-the-Rhine Brewery District say creating a second Over-The-Rhine entertainment district could be good for business. The plan would split the neighborhood in half and double the amount of liquor licenses for business owners. City Council's Neighborhoods Committee will hear the plan on Dec. 16, but it already has the support of Vice Mayor David Mann and OTR Community Council, which voted in favor of it earlier this year. Liquor licenses in Cincinnati are handed out by geographic area. The current OTR entertainment district has a cap of 15 liquor licenses for its 179-acre area, and there's currently a long waiting list for businesses to obtain one.
The number of Arabic speakers have shot up this year for Mason City Schools. This year, 38 percent of its English as a Second Language (ESL) students are native Arabic speakers, up from 8 percent last school year. Most families have come from Saudi Arabia for a program called Destination Excellence at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center that recruits out-of-area patients to the hospital as a way to attract more talent to the medical center. But the program has created a conflict for the school district. The majority of these families hold B-1/B-2 business and tourist visitor visas, which actually prohibits them from enrolling their children in public schools. That law clashes with the federal law that prohibits schools from asking their students their immigration status. The school has followed advice from various state government officials to allow the students to attend, but it is also scrambling to accommodate the cost alongside the influx of Arabic speakers.
A New Day for America, the super PAC behind Gov. John Kasich's presidential run, is taking aim at fellow GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. The super PAC recently aired a series of ads against Trump and mailed out fliers to New Hampshire voters criticizing Trump's comments on immigration. Kasich's campaign has been focusing on New Hampshire to get ahead, and a spokeswoman for the super PAC said they're working on targeting "soft" Trump supporters in the state.
Good morning Cincy. Here’s a quick rundown of some big news stories today.
Ah, high school athletics. A place where we can lay aside our differences and come together in mutual appreciation of sport in all its unifying glory. Or not. Last Friday, Moeller High School in Montgomery cancelled its season-opener basketball game at Taft High School, which is located in the West End, because of a scheduled Black Lives Matter rally downtown. Moeller officials cited concern for the safety of their students and say the decision was made collaboratively between the two schools. But representatives from Taft say that’s not true, and that Moeller made the decision unilaterally and at the last minute. What’s worse, Taft’s athletic program counts on proceeds from games like the one against Moeller, and at least for now is out the money it would have made from ticket sales. A spokesperson for Moeller said the game will be rescheduled. Some fans even showed up at Taft for the game, unaware it had been cancelled. Channel 9 reported that Moeller took the game off its calendar Saturday morning.
• Mason-based work wear and janitorial supply giant Cintas Corporation has settled for $1.5 million a decade-old gender discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The suit alleges that Cintas refused to hire qualified female workers in its sales department in Michigan between 1999 and 2005. The EEOC checked the number of female employees the company hired against the number of applications it received and found that a significant number were denied employment despite their qualifications. In addition to paying the monetary damages for missed wages to those women, Cintas will also undergo an independent review of its hiring practices.
• Which public school systems in Ohio provide the greatest value when you consider housing costs vs. school performance? Here’s a hint: they’re not around here. Finance website Nerdwallet.com crunched school performance, property value and property tax numbers to come up with a ranking of all the school districts in the state. That list shows that most of the best-value schools are around Toledo, which has relatively low housing costs and comparatively higher-performing school districts. Meanwhile, Cincinnati Public Schools came in at 605 in the ranking of 608 schools.
• A federal court has ordered the state of Ohio to commute the death sentence of a Hamilton County man convicted of murdering his neighbor in 1997, or to hold a new trial on the punishment phase of that conviction. Rayshawn Johnson was found guilty of murdering Shannon Marks with a baseball bat, and a jury decided on the death sentence for the crime. But Johnson did not get adequate legal representation during a phase of the trial that considered mitigating factors in his actions, including childhood abuse. A number of those factors make the death penalty inappropriate for Johnson, according to a 4-3 vote by the federal appeals court, which overturns an earlier Ohio Supreme Court decision upholding the death penalty ruling for Johnson. The state can hold the mitigation phase of the trial again or commute Johnson’s sentence to life in prison.
• Ohio is only days away from stripping more than $1 million in funding for health services that has in the past been given to the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics thanks to a law passed by both the state House and Senate. But the wording of that law could create a number of unintended consequences, including removing the funding from non-Planned Parenthood related entities such as the Columbus Public Health Department.
The law works by barring any organization affiliated with abortion providers from certain state and federal grants. But the wording of the law is tricky, and could mean that some programs designed to address STD prevention, infant mortality and other major, non-abortion-related concerns could lose out. Currently, Planned Parenthood wins the money in question in a competitive, state-administered process. Other providers that participate in that process, including Columbus Public Health, say they will not be able to accommodate a rush of new patients that could come from Planned Parenthood ceasing its health care services. None of the programs targeted by the funding cut are abortion related. State lawmakers say they’re simply making sure that taxpayers don’t contribute funds to abortion providers. The House and Senate bills must be reconciled, after which the legislation will go to Gov. John Kasich's desk to be signed into law.
I’m out. Later all!
Good morning all. Hope you had a great holiday weekend. Here’s the news today.
Cincinnati’s last remaining women’s clinic that provides abortions will remain open until at least May following a last-minute decision by the Ohio Department of Health to grant it a license. Back in September, the ODH denied Planned Parenthood’s Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn its first request for a variance to state laws requiring clinics to have transfer agreements with local hospitals. That move could have shut the clinic down, but an ensuing court injunction kept it open. Now, the ODH has approved the clinic’s second request for a variance on the last day of a 60-day deadline stipulated by new state laws. That request listed four doctors with individual admitting privileges at local hospitals. The clinic’s previous request listed three.
• Three of Cincinnati City Council’s most conservative members have been pretty good buds up to this point, even tapping each other to pick their successors should one of them leave council early. But the cozy coalition between council members Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn, both Republicans, and Christopher Smitherman, an independent, could change rapidly as the race for a Hamilton County commissioner seat heat up. None of the three are officially running yet, but Smitherman and Winburn have at least grabbed petitions that would enable them to appear on the ballot, and Murray said she’s considering her options in terms of the race. If two or all three jump into the race for departing commissioner Greg Hartmann’s seat, things could get less friendly. As the Business Courier points out, party primaries can be brutal, no-holds-barred affairs.
• Meanwhile, The Cincinnati Enquirer ran a story yesterday on City Council’s accomplishments two years into its newly extended four-year terms. It also, strangely, both lauds council for getting a lot done while at the same time criticizing it for being “rife with feuding, dysfunction and for some members, missed meetings.” The piece takes a negative view of council Democrats’ disagreements with Mayor John Cranley and dings council overall for its lack of “one voting bloc” and “one agenda among members.” Which, to editorialize, seems like a very weird critique of a democratic body. Don’t we have nine council members so we can have different viewpoints and different goals? Anyway, take a look at the article, which does have some good tidbits of information in it about what council has been up to.
• About 60 protesters with Black Lives Matter Cincinnati took to the streets downtown Friday. The group says the rally through downtown and Over-the-Rhine was held in solidarity with activists in Chicago, where hundreds have decried recently released video of the Chicago Police Department shooting of Laquan McDonald. McDonald was shot 16 times by a CPD officer last year as he was walking away from police. Though McDonald was armed with a three-inch knife, the officer who shot him had arrived on the scene just seconds before and was a safe distance away from McDonald. The officer was subsequently charged with murder. The rally in Cincinnati follows a similar event last weekend to remember Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot by police in Cleveland last year.
• Does Over-the-Rhine need more liquor licenses? As we explored this spring in our feature on neighborhood entertainment districts, many people are pushing for ways to expand the number of licenses available in some Cincinnati neighborhoods. A new plan being proposed would do just that for OTR, doubling the number of licenses available in the neighborhood by splitting up its current neighborhood entertainment district into two parts and extending its boundaries north. While advocates of the plan say it would aid economic development in the area, especially around Findlay Market, others are asking for balance and caution, saying that too many bars could make the area less livable for residents.
• Hamilton County commissioners are set to approve the county’s upcoming budget this week. As they prepare to do that, though, there’s a hubub going on over the county sheriff’s office. The department, headed by Democrat Sheriff Jim Neil, makes up by far the largest single expenditure in the fiscal plan: $59 million of the county’s $200 million general fund expenditures go to the office. But the hard part has been that the department doesn’t stay within the lines on that budget and is expected to be about $5 million over the $54 million spending mark stipulated by the current budget. That has caused some pushback from county commissioners, who have said Neil needs to be more strategic about his spending. So what’s responsible for the overruns? Officials say lack of communication has played a role, but also needed staff increases and modernization efforts within the department have contributed to the cost overruns.
I'm out! Send me news tips.
Hey Cincy. Hope you’re winding down your work week. It’s T-minus two days 'til turkey time, which also happens to be my birthday this year. I’m hyped for both. Oh, and if you want to get your favorite reporter a b-day gift, I’ll take a pair of these in size 8.5 thx. Huh. Now you know my shoe size, which is kind of creepy.
But here’s something awesome: There will be tons of political fodder for you to argue awkwardly about around the dinner table with your family this Thanksgiving. Consider this news update your guide to all the best terrible conversations you’ll be having soon.
• You can start with something mild, like debating whether or not Mayor John Cranley should have gotten off the hook for his election-day outburst at a polling location in Avondale. OK, “outburst” is a little harsh. The Cran-man just got a bit over-enthusiastic about Issue 22, the parks tax proposal, and shouted out that people should vote yes on it a couple times. Who doesn’t like to see enthusiasm for the democratic process? But uh, campaigning and telling people how to vote in a polling place is pretty firmly against the rules, especially when you’re a political figure. Despite that, the Hamilton County Board of Elections yesterday announced that it will not be seeking any penalties against the mayor for his breach of the rules. Pollworker Mary Siegel argued that the BOE should start cracking down on such electioneering infractions in the future, because the rules are rarely enforced now.
• If the ensuing argument about that doesn’t heat things up while you’re waiting for the turkey to finish cooking, try talking with your conservative Uncle Jeff about the University of Cincinnati white student union that was set up on Facebook a few days ago. The group’s posts feature prognosticating on how “European Americans” face special challenges on campus and in society in general and other nonsensical claptrap designed to draw people into useless race-related Internet debates. Anyway, the page is almost certainly fake, set up in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to a plan hatched on a national white supremacist message board. The UC-themed page uses language almost identical to similar sites across the country, many of the likes on the page’s posts come from out of town Facebook accounts and the whole thing comes across as a reminder not to feed the trolls. So, uh, don’t feed the trolls. Meanwhile, there are more serious and terrifying anti-Black Lives Matter incidents happening of late.
• Just a couple days after Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, dropped a bombshell by revealing he’s decided not to run for reelection, three Cincinnati City Council members are saying they’re considering running for his seat. Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn have both expressed some interest, with Winburn saying he could switch from a planned run for county recorder to the commission race if the party wants him to. Murray has said she’ll take the Thanksgiving holiday to think it over before deciding, but is intrigued. Meanwhile, independent Christopher Smitherman has said he might run as a Republican for the seat. Whoever the Hamilton County GOP taps will face Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus of Clifton, who is leaving the state House due to term limits.
• The second Cincinnati streetcar arrives today and will soon be making test trips around the 3.6-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown. This argument pretty much scripts itself, so just say "streetcar" to your public transit-hating dad and watch the holiday magic unfold.
• Black leaders from across the state met yesterday at The Urban League of Greater Cincinnati headquarters in Avondale to discuss the state of black Ohio. The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, which includes local politicians State Sen. Cecil Thomas and State Rep. Alicia Reece, held the public meeting in part to discuss the wide disparities facing the black community here and across the state. Ohio ranks second-to-last in the nation in infant mortality rates, according to the caucus. Closer to home, the group singled out continued issues at the University of Cincinnati, which has been the site of serious racial dialogue around disparities in higher education. The group also discussed efforts toward police reform, which have been slow in coming even after several high-profile police shootings of unarmed black citizens here and a task force convened by Gov. John Kasich. You can read more about how activists are continuing to fight for those reforms in this week’s news feature.
• GOP presidential primary contender Donald Trump came to Ohio yesterday. He didn’t talk as much shit about Ohio Gov. John Kasich as he has in the past. Per usual, his speech was light on policy proposals and heavy on bombast. What else really needs to be said? His remarks to a crowd of 10,000 mostly focused on how the U.S. has become “soft and weak” (despite spending more on its military than all other countries combined) and about how he’s leading in all major polls (sadly, this claim is actually true). He also gave a shout out to waterboarding, the controversial torture technique once used by the U.S. to extract intelligence from terrorism suspects. Trump’s all for bringing it back. Another thing Trump likes, according to his hour-long remarks: lists. As in, lists of people who are Muslim, which Trump thinks should be compiled by the federal government. Thanksgiving family debate difficulty level: black diamond.
• Finally, Indiana Governor Mike Pence faces a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union over his refusal to take in Syrian refugees. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Exodus Refugee Immigration, the Indianapolis nonprofit that handles refugee resettlement for the state. Pence pressured that organization to turn away Syrian refugees earlier this month. The ACLU says in doing so, he violated both the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act. This would be a great topic to discuss with your cousin Tami, who has that Gadsen flag bumper sticker on her Hummer.
That’s it for me. Later!
Good morning, Cincinnati! Hope y'all are ready for a short work week followed by some binge eating!
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann is officially not running for re-election next year. Hartmann, who has served as commissioner for the last seven years, announced his decision in an email Saturday. He stated his main motivation was to allow new leadership in the position in what he calls "a self-imposed term limit." Hartmann's decision came as a surprise, as the conservative Republican was already raising money to run against State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Clifton), who chose to run for commissioner upon hitting a real term limit after serving in the state House for eight years. Hartmann told the Enquirer he had been thinking about not running for the past year. Republicans have yet to present another candidate for the position.
• Another federal housing project might be coming to Cincinnati that would give government housing agencies flexibility to test local projects using federal dollars. The arrival of the 19-year-old federal program Moving to Work is pending the U.S. Senate's approval of appropriations bill that would extend the program to 39 different agencies. The program targets programs that reduce the costs of other programs and incentivize families to prepare for work. Some local activists and experts aren't so thrilled with program's possible arrival. Critics of the program say that the local agencies' programs that receive the flexible federal dollars aren't subjected to enough evaluations to prove their effectiveness, therefore letting ineffective, and even damaging programs, slide by.
• A new program looking to get guns off the streets of Cincinnati will launch its second round today. The program, run by the nonprofit Street Rescue, will set up in Brown Chapel AME Church on Alms Place from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. allowing community members to trade their unwanted guns for $50 and $100 grocery gift cards, no questions asked. The program was developed by local residents who aim to get illegal guns off the street following the city's recent spike in violent crime. They collected seven guns during their first drive in October.
• Cincinnati City Councilman and Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld is still in the race, much to the dismay of political experts. Sittenfeld's campaign against Republican Rob Portman has been largely overshadowed since former Democratic Ohio governor Ted Strickland jumped in the race. The Ohio Democratic Party gave Strickland its endorsement last April. But Sittenfeld held on and has launched recent attacks against both candidates for issues like gun control. Strickland is much better known around the state than Sittenfeld, who isn't recognized much outside of Cincinnati.
• Finally, Brussels is lockdown as authorities sweep the city for terrorism suspects. Authorities have even requested residents refrain from posting messages that expose the whereabouts of police on social media. So rather than give up social media for the extent of the operations, Belgians have banded together by posting pictures of cats, the Internet's favorite animal. Cat memes have popped up all over Belgian's social media accounts poking fun of the tense operation.
Good morning all. Hope you’re hyped for the weekend. I’m going to see Jens Lekman at the Woodward tonight, so I totally am. Music isn’t my beat and you should probably just read our article on the show after we talk about news. But for now, let’s get to it.
The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT rights organization, has established today as the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day designed to draw attention to the often-forgotten violence faced by transgender people in America. At least 98 hate crimes against people based on their gender identity were reported in 2014, according to FBI hate crimes statistics. This year, trans people have been victims of nearly two dozen murders. Trans people in Cincinnati are no exception and face harsh violence, even murder.
• Why did former Cincinnati State President O’dell Owens leave so suddenly back in September? Turns out the answer is partly about money and partly about interpersonal politics, as so many answers are. Owens, who was once Hamilton County coroner and now serves as the director of the Cincinnati Health Department, was being asked to undertake 10 in-person fundraising meetings a week on behalf of the college. That fundraising schedule is unusual, education experts say. Other duties generally given to a college president were in the process of being assigned to a newly hired chief operating officer.
Despite exceeding his fundraising goals — Owens says he raised $1.73 million last year, hundreds of thousands of dollars more than he was expected to raise — and gaining praise from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Owens says he continued to receive pushback from some of the college’s board members. The tension culminated in an angry phone call from board chair Cathy Crain. Owens says Crain raised her voice to him in a call about a statement he made to the Cincinnati Enquirer on a possible tax levy for the school. After that incident, he began to consider leaving Cincinnati State. More money, more problems, or something.
• So, Cincinnati is definitely living in the age of re-urbanization, with more folks flocking back to the city. But while the general stereotype is that young professionals drive the demand for urban living spaces, it looks like baby boomers hitting retirement age are pushing a condo boom in Cincinnati as well. Older folks are interested in living in the city after their kids (finally) move out and they don’t need quite so much space, some developers say. Increased demand from empty nesters has informed new condo projects in places like Hyde Park. Side note: When I first saw the headline of that WCPO article, I read it as “condor demand picks up” and thought owning a bird of prey was some new hipster, Royal Tenenbaums-throwback thing I missed.
• As a journalist I’m supposed to be cold and dead inside without preference or favoritism for anything. I generally do OK with that, but if I have two weak spots, they are bicycles and beer. So I might not be qualified to report on this next thing objectively, but here goes: Cincinnati’s Fifty West Brewing Co. is expanding and, in the process, folding in the Oakley Cycles shop, a high-end bicycle retailer that will move from Observatory Avenue to Fifty West’s campus in Columbia Township. Fifty West and Oakley Cycles representatives both say they’re looking to provide a new, community-oriented experience for visitors while taking advantage of the Fifty West facility’s proximity to local bike trails. Fifty West will also be expanding capacity to brew four times as much beer as it does now. This is all pretty great.
• What else is happening? GOP presidential primary contender and perennially red-faced and slightly sweaty verbal combatant Donald Trump has set his sights on equally red-faced and sweaty fellow Republican candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The two have been having a war of words via Twitter, which… well, that’s where we’re at as a country these days and I’m really just too depressed to continue typing about this. Check it out if you want.
Kasich has also drawn some attention for his suggestion that the United States create a federal government agency charged with spreading Judeo-Christian values across the globe. That sounds like a great plan that has absolutely zero constitutional or moral problems, right? Once again, I’m just going to let you read the story.
• Finally, a small group of Syrian refugees resettled in Kentucky this week despite political furor over such resettlements after the attacks on Paris last week by ISIS. Most of the eight attackers were French or Belgian, but at least one Syrian passport was found at the scene of one of the attacks, fueling apprehensions that some of the four million refugees fleeing Syria are allied with ISIS, the militant Islamic group that has claimed control of large parts of Iraq and Syria.
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would add extra levels of scrutiny to Iraqi and Syrian refugees before they can resettle in the United States on top of the U.S. State Department’s already months- or years-long vetting process. Those new requirements would effectively halt refugee resettlement of those groups in the U.S. The bill faces stiff opposition in the Senate, and President Barack Obama has vowed to veto it should it pass there. The House’s version of the bill passed with a veto-proof two-thirds majority. The Senate would need to pass it with a similar margin to override Obama’s veto ability.
If you’re interested in learning more about the refugee resettlement process from the perspective of an Iraqi family that settled in Cincinnati, check out our cover story earlier this year on refugees here.
I’m out. Enjoy your weekend!
Good morning all. Here’s the news today.
You might’ve missed it entirely, but GOP presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was in Cincinnati last night. He was speaking at a private event at Music Hall and didn’t really hit the town much or give public stump speeches. But he did chat with press outside the Cincinnatian Hotel downtown for a moment after his speech, where he told reporters that the answer to struggles with poverty in cities like ours is less government regulation. Carson said regulations on businesses and the finance industry keep prices high and interest rates low, meaning the poor pay more for everyday goods and don’t get returns on interest collected from things like savings accounts.
“It doesn’t hurt rich people when they go into a store and a bar of soap costs 10 cents more. It hurts poor people,” he said. Carson also talked about why he opposes Syrian refugees coming into the United States and concerns about his lack of foreign policy knowledge, which have been floated by his own advisers recently. Carson scoffed at the suggestion that his lack of world knowledge makes him unprepared to be president, saying he’s visited 57 countries and that he has “common sense and a brain.”
Hey Ben. I’ve been to Canada a few times and also possess a human brain of sorts. Make me an ambassador to our neighbors up north after you get elected, eh? Carson is polling second in Ohio in the GOP presidential primary race behind Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is polling third in his own dang state. Ohio's primary is in March.
• Speaking of the sad plight of Syrian refugees, a group of about 15 protesters gathered outside Cincinnati City Hall to protest statements made by Mayor John Cranley earlier this week asking the federal government to pause resettlement efforts for those refugees in the U.S. Cranley has since apologized for upsetting people with that statement, but has also defended his point — that federal officials should place a moratorium on Syrian refugee resettlement in Cincinnati and elsewhere in the country until they can guarantee safety for citizens. Cranley, like Ohio Gov. John Kasich and a number of other mostly Republican governors, is concerned that terrorists from ISIS could slip into refugee populations making their way into the United States.
• A group of about 30 students representing University of Cincinnati’s activist group the Irate8 held a silent protest yesterday on UC’s campus to advocate for racial equity there. The demonstration came in the wake of UC’s response to the group’s list of 10 demands. The Irate8 came together after the July 19 shooting of unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose by UC police officer Ray Tensing. Tensing is currently awaiting trial on murder charges. The Irate8 has issued a list of 10 demands and timelines for UC administrators. That list includes substantive reforms to UC’s policing practices, including removal of officers at the scene of the DuBose shooting from active patrols, and efforts to double UC’s enrollment of black students. Currently, black students make up 8 percent of UC’s student body, even though Cincinnati as a city is 45 percent black. The university responded earlier this week to that list of demands, but activists say the response is too general and doesn’t set forth concrete action steps or deadlines.
• The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Metropolitan Sewer District made improper payments of taxpayer money to outside contractors. Those contracts, handled by the city, are worth up to $35 million a year. That’s caused Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel and other county officials to question whether the city is running the MSD properly. Cincinnati operates the MSD, but it’s owned by the county. Memos from City Manager Harry Black to Cincinnati City Council detail what Black believed to be inefficiencies in the contracting process, including jobs that might have been awarded without proper competitive bidding. However, those memos don’t say anything about legal improprieties. It’s unclear which specific contracts the FBI is investigating. The city and county’s sewer district has faced a lot of scrutiny in recent years, mostly thanks to a $3.2 billion, federal court-ordered restructuring project MSD is currently undertaking.
• Two Cincinnati-based state representatives are working on an effort to increase accountability for the state’s law enforcement officers in the wake of controversy around police-involved shootings in this city and around the country. State Reps. Alicia Reece, a Democrat, and Jonathan Dever, a Republican, are pushing a new bill that would create a written, publicly available statewide standard for investigating police-involved shootings across Ohio. That standard would require a report from investigators no more than 30 days after a police shooting happens, and if no indictment is handed down for the officer, that report would be immediately made public. The bill is one of many expected to come from a task force convened by Gov. John Kasich earlier this year in response to controversial police shootings throughout the state. Lawmakers say they hope to have preliminary hearings on the bill before the end of the year.
• Finally, we all make mistakes. Some of us lock ourselves out of the house without our keys and wallet because we’re so excited to get a bagel and some coffee. (Yes, I did that this morning.) But some among us take bigger risks, so the mistake possibilities are much higher and more interesting. The group pushing ballot initiative Issue 3, for instance, created a creepy, weed-headed pitchman for their multi-million-dollar effort. Ian James, one of the heads of marijuana legalization effort ResponsibleOhio, admitted that Buddie, the caped crusader of weed legalization and ResponsibleOhio’s mascot, was probably not a great idea. Seriously. Dude’s head was a giant, dank bud. I had nightmares. James also said the idea of limiting growth of marijuana to 10 grow sites owned by ResponsibleOhio investors in the group’s ballot proposal was also a mistake. In the letter, James promised that pro-pot organizers with the group would be back with an improved ballot initiative next year to again try and get weed legalized in Ohio.
That’s it for me. I have to go get coffee and a bagel now or I’m probably going to pass out.
Morning all. Here’s the news today.
Mayor John Cranley has said he “feels horrible” about any unintended harm he may have caused in calling for a moratorium on Syrian refugees coming to Cincinnati, but is standing by the substance of his comments. Cranley also told The Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday that he merely meant to suggest a “pause” on refugee resettlement here until safety concerns brought up by attacks in Lebanon, Egypt and France could be addressed. Cranley has joined Ohio Gov. John Kasich and other, mostly conservative, politicians across the country in calling for an at-least-temporary halt to Syrian refugee resettlement in the wake of those attacks. The U.S. has an extensive vetting process for refugees that can take anywhere from 18 months to multiple years, as CityBeat explored in this cover story about an Iraqi refugee family earlier this year. Meanwhile, a local Muslim group today decried statements by Cranley and Kasich, calling them “disturbing,” knee-jerk reactions that punish terror victims instead of preventing terrorism.
• Bus drivers for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority have taken another step closer to striking over a new bus proposal. A group of drivers yesterday attended a SORTA board meeting to protest higher health insurance payments as well as a plan that calls for smaller Metro buses operated by lower-paid drivers. Drivers with the Amalgamated Transit Union say decisions about that plan are being made without current SORTA drivers’ input. Those drivers say they should operate the smaller buses, instead of lower-paid drivers who can operate the smaller buses without a commercial driver’s license. Current Metro drivers top out at about $25 an hour; drivers of the smaller buses would start at $15 and top out just under $20 an hour. ATU members will vote on whether to strike over the new proposal at their Dec. 3 meeting. There are no bargaining meetings between the ATU and SORTA scheduled before that date.
• While that public transportation fight rages, some transit advocates will be partying tonight to celebrate the city’s first streetcar in 65 years. Streetcar advocates with All Aboard Ohio are throwing a free public party at Over-the-Rhine’s The Transept, a newly renovated church along the streetcar route, tonight starting at 6 p.m. The group has been one of the biggest voices in boosting the 3.6-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown as well as other rail projects in Cincinnati. The event will feature free appetizers and a cash bar.
• Have you ever felt like this state needs more guns in daycare centers? If so, you're in luck, because that could become a reality with a new bill the Ohio House of Representatives just passed. The bill would allow concealed carry permit holders to have their guns in the aforementioned child care facilities, on college campuses and on private aircraft. Because nothing is more American than shooting a bald eagle out of the sky from the cockpit of your Leer Jet. The bill passed the house 63-25. Now it’s off to the Senate.
• As we’ve talked about before, GOP presidential primary hopeful and Ohio Gov. John Kasich has pinned his campaign’s continued viability on his performance in early primary state New Hampshire. Annnnnd… it’s not looking so great there right now, according to a poll conducted by a National Public Radio affiliate. In September, Kasich was polling at 45 percent favorability among GOP voters in the state. These days, however, just 33 percent of GOPers view him favorably. Meanwhile, his unfavorable percentage has gone up to 39 percent in the most recent Nov. 15 poll, a huge swell from the 21 percent who found him unfavorable in the September round of polling. He has stayed steady with voters who identify him as their first preference, however. In September, 7 percent of New Hampshire GOP voters said he was their first choice. The most recent poll found that number unchanged. Kasich lost a couple points with undecided voters in that same time period, however.
* Finally, GOP presidential frontrunner and manly mane mentor Donald Trump will stump in Columbus Monday. Grab your tickets now and maybe find a good book to read.
I’m out. Twitter. Email. You know how to reach me.
Following attacks in Egypt, Beirut and Paris that killed hundreds, the United States should place a moratorium on Syrian refugees, Mayor John Cranley said in a Nov. 16 statement.
“I understand the dire circumstances Syrian refugees face because I personally visited a refugee camp in Jordan last summer,” Cranley said in that statement. “However, the federal government should halt its actions until the American people can be assured that exhaustive vetting has occurred.”
Cranley’s statement comes just two weeks after the roll-out of a program he says is designed to make Cincinnati the most welcoming city in the country for immigrants. At least one Syrian refugee family of nine has already settled in Cincinnati. But recent terrorist attacks have radically shifted the conversation around refugees in the U.S.
Bombings and shootings carried out by followers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Beirut and Egypt last week claimed hundreds of lives, and a subsequent attack in Paris killing 129 on Nov. 13 garnered new levels of attention for the terrorist group. Those attacks have led some politicians, including Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, to oppose accepting Syrians into the country.
“I wouldn’t let them in unless we have a positive affirmation that they don’t have evil intent or that they’re associated with any group that would endanger the country,” Kasich said at a GOP presidential candidate summit in Florida the day after the Paris attacks. “We’re not bringing ISIS into this country.”
Kasich’s office has said the governor is looking into ways to refuse refugees coming to Ohio. Other Republican governors, including presidential primary contender Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, have also protested refugees arriving in their states. These protests are largely symbolic, however. Acceptance of refugees is a federal matter; governors and mayors have no formal say in resettlement policies.
At least eight people carried out the Paris attacks. Most were French, according to investigators, but at least two were from Syria.
After stepping into the chaos of an ongoing civil war in Syria initially sparked by dictator Bashar-al Assad, ISIS gained control of a swath of Syria and Iraq populated by about 8 million people. Last year, the group claimed it has caliphate status — that is, an Islamic state charged with upholding Islamic law. The group has murdered thousands as it seeks to consolidate power over portions of Syria and Iraq, driving an estimated 4 million Syrians out of the country as refugees.
Most of those refugees have taken shelter in nearby European states such as France and Germany. However, the United States has agreed to take on 10,000 of the fleeing Syrians.
Not all politicians have called for rejection of the refugees. Cincinnati City Council Democrats Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson decried Cranley’s move, calling for the city to welcome Syrians. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley asked that the Department of Homeland Security ensure the safety of U.S. citizens, but said the city would welcome immigrants.
“Should the decision be made to place refugees from any country in the city of Dayton, we will continue to be a leader in the welcoming movement and will champion inclusive communities that enable all residents to thrive," Whaley said in a Nov. 16 statement.
Good morning! Here are your morning headlines.
Mayor John Cranley yesterday joined a growing number of politicians across the U.S., including Ohio Governor John Kasich, in calling for the federal government to stop admitting Syrian refugees into the U.S. The push comes in the aftermath of recent terrorist attacks in Egypt, Lebanon and Paris, where one dead attacker was found with a Syrian passport. The U.S. pledged to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees in September amid the growing crisis overseas, which is just a tiny percentage of the more than 3 million Syrians have fled the country under the strain of the country's ongoing civil war. Cranley's announcement spurred immediate backlash from council members Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson, who released a joint statement saying refugees should be welcomed into the community and not vilified. Refugees are processed at the federal level and go through extensive criminal background and health checks before they are admitted into the U.S. The average waiting period is between 18 and 24 months. Just last month, Cranley announced a plan to make Cincinnati more immigrant-friendly, stating that immigrants can help boost the local economy and create jobs.
• Things aren't looking good for Planned Parenthood at the Ohio State House. The GOP-majority legislature looks ready to vote to strip the health organization of $1.3 million dollars in state funding. The push against Planned Parenthood across the U.S. comes from unproven claims from anti-abortion groups that the Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue for profit. But the money that the state will likely vote to strip from Planned Parenthood doesn't go to abortion services, but to programs that do things like fund tests for sexually transmitted infections and find prenatal care for mothers. The decision will come just days after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to look at Texas laws, which have required that the state's abortion clinics adhere to new strict requirements like having admitting privileges to local hospitals. Ohio legislature has also passed tighter restrictions on abortion clinics in the state modeled after laws in Texas' law forcing nearly half of the state's clinics to close.
• The park levy may have lost on the ballot, but controversy around it lives on. The City of Cincinnati denied a taxpayer's lawsuit against the city's Parks Board because of private endowment money it spent on a pro-levy website. The lawsuit was filed by State Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. (R-Mt. Lookout), who stated that the Parks Board violated the city charter when Director Willie Carden authorized $2,575 from the Parks Foundation last June to be spent on a website for the levy. The city charter states that no funds from the city can be used towards advocating for or against a candidate or proposal. The city denied the lawsuit on the grounds that all the money has been returned to the Cincinnati Parks Foundation.
• Metro has a plan to bring bus service to some Cincinnati neighborhoods by using smaller buses, but that plan involves paying drivers of those buses less. That's ignited talks of a strike among SORTA's union. Metro's proposal comes shortly after the release of a University of Cincinnati Economics Center study that found that Metro's services were insufficient to connect commuters to 75,000 Cincinnati jobs. The proposed buses will go down routes where it services are needed, but the ridership is low. The mini-bus proposal is opposed by the union as it would permit the hiring of drivers without commercial licenses for lower wages. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority has proposed up to 31 percent of its route be served by mini-buses with a $15.47 an hour starting wage.
The Cincinnati Planning Commission has approved plans for a 131-unit apartment complex downtown. The $52 million complex will be at Eighth and Sycamore streets pending the approval of City Council as early as next week. The parking garage and apartments are part of a larger development plan for the city-owned site, which will also feature up to 10,000 square feet of street-level retail space. The Cincinnati City Center Development Corp., or 3CDC, will build a 500-car parking garage, while Cincy-based North American Properties is in charge of constructing the actual units. If plans are approved, the parking complex could be ready as early as June, but the apartments won't be completed until the second half of 2017 at least.
• Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Over-the-Rhine is calling on community support to help keep its winter shelter open to the homeless through Feb. 29. Rev. John Suguitan says the church is short the funds necessary to keep its doors open through one of the coldest months of the year. The church, which is located on Race Street, has focused on community outreach since 1969 and currently has 45 spots available for homeless individuals to stay overnight.
• A report from Disability Rights Ohio found major issues with the enforcement a 2013 Ohio law limiting the seclusion and restraint of students for the convenience of staff members.The rule requires schools to report such incidents to Ohio's Department of Education. But, according to the report, many instances still go unreported. Under the law, the DOE lacks the authority to force schools to do so and the schools face no punishment for not complying. It also found many schools were also not notifying parents if their child had been restrained or secluded, which is also a requirement of the law.
• Chicago police officer Robert Rialmo, who fatally shot a 19-year-old black man and unarmed bystander in December, is suing the teenager's estate for more than $10 million. The officer claims the Dec. 26 confrontation that lead to the death of teen Quintonio LeGrier, who was holding a baseball bat, and 55-year-old Bettie Jones, caused him "extreme emotional trauma." The shooting is still under investigation.
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."
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.
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.
results for the Democrats were Clinton with 49.9 percent, Sanders with 49.6
percent. The Clinton campaign claimed a humble win 3:35 a.m., hours after the
Republicans found Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas as their victor. However, some precincts are still unaccounted for and the Sanders campaign is calling for a raw vote count.
Clinton was awarded 699.57 state delegate equivalents, versus 695.49 for Sanders. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley suspended his bid for the presidency only about an hour into the night.
Matt Paul, Hillary for America’s Iowa State Director, released a statement following Clinton’s caucus victory: "Hillary Clinton has won the Iowa Caucus. After thorough reporting – and analysis – of results, there is no uncertainty and Secretary Clinton has clearly won the most national and state delegates."
Sanders' spokeswoman Rania Batrice noted that one
precinct remained outstanding, and said there were questions about the results
in several other counties. "We definitely don't feel comfortable
yet," she said early Tuesday.
NBC dubbed last night as the closest Iowa caucus for Democrats in history. The
nail-biting battle for Iowa was literally decided by coin tosses to settle ties between
the Vermont senator and former first lady. Some coin tosses went in Sanders' favor but some reports suggest Clinton made out with the most coin toss victories.
Neither candidate made a formal
victory speech, however they both spoke to their supporters.
“Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” was chanted as the Democratic underdog took
the stage to thank supporters. “Iowa, thank you,” he said. “Nine
months ago, we came to this beautiful state. We had no political organization.
We had no money. We had no name recognition and we were taking on the most
powerful political organization in the United States of America.” Sanders went
on to declare a “virtual tie.”
The smile on Sanders’ face was not the smile of a man that just lost a state — it
was the smile of a man that knows he proved he can take on establishment
Clinton gave a nod to Sanders’ strong showing in the
Hawkeye state, saying, “I am excited about really getting into the debate with
Sen. Sanders about the best way forward.”
“We have to be united against Republicans who will divide us,” she continued. “I
intend to stand against it.”
Clinton started the race with a huge lead over Sanders, and while she can
technically claim victory, her razor-thin win signals that her inevitability
has drastically evaporated.
Some Clinton supporters might be worried the former secretary of state’s
underestimation of Sanders’ populist campaign could lead to a repeat of 2008
when Barack Obama seemingly swooped out of nowhere and stole the election.
Polls showed Clinton as the
presumptive nominee, with 60 percent when the fight for the Democratic
nomination kicked off in May (Sanders had just 10 percent support). Few people
in America knew who the Independent Vermont senator was.
The field of only two Democratic candidates goes into Tuesday’s New Hampshire
with Sanders in the lead by 19 points, according to the latest
NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.
Without a clear loss in Iowa, the momentum can give Sanders the needed
financial and popularity boost to battle Clinton well into spring. "We're going to fight really hard in New Hampshire
and then we're going to Nevada, to South Carolina, we're doing well around the
country," Sanders said getting off a plane in New Hampshire this morning.
For young liberals around the country, the summer
blockbuster was not the potential for the first woman president — it was a
74-year-old white Jewish career politician. Sanders is a frequent guest on
HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, which
could be how some on the left initially knew about the Democratic socialist.
His rhetoric of lifting the weight of student debt
and increasing the minimum wage plays well to the college crowd, who on average
graduate with $29,000 of debt, according to the Department of Education.
of caucus-goers in Iowa showed that Sanders controlled the young vote with 90
percent of voters under 30 “feeling the Bern” along with voters making $50,000
or less. Clinton owned the female demographic with 57 percent, and moderate
Trump claimed a close second-place finish with 24.3 percent and Sen. Marco
Rubio took an expected third-place with 23.1 percent.
Ben Carson ended the night with 9.3 percent of the vote, Sen. Rand Paul got 4.5 percent, and Jeb Bush came in with a disappointing 2.8 percent despite pouring $16 million into Iowa advertisement.
Despite losing Iowa, Trump gathered the second-largest amount of votes in Iowa caucus history — Cruz of course received a historic level of support with the most support in the state’s history.
Trump delivered a humble and short defeat speech.“We finished second and I just want to tell you something — I’m just honored,” Trump said to supporters. “I want to congratulate Ted and the I wanna congratulate all the incredible candidate including Mike Huckabee who has become a really good friend of mine. We will easily go on to defeat Hillary or Bernie who whoever the hell they throw up there” Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee suspended his campaign last night.
Cruz didn’t mention Trump by name in his victory speech, but continued his firebrand politics that secured his Iowa victory.
“Tonight is a victory for every American who understands that after we survive eight long years of the Obama presidency, no one personality can right the wrongs done by Washington,” the freshman senator said.
Rubio delivered what sounded like a speech that was written in case the Florida senator secured Iowa. "So this is the moment they told us would never happen,” he said. “They told me my hair wasn't grey enough. They told me my boots were too high. They told me to wait my turn."
The polls missed foreseeing Cruz’s victory, but virtually all predictions going into Iowa showed Rubio taking third place.The Ohio primary is March 15.
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are today's headlines.
Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac unveiled a new crime reduction strategy that would target certain high crime locations in the city. Isaac presented the plan called Place-based Investigations of Violent Offender Territories, or PIVOT, Monday to the City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee. The idea is law enforcement will start to tackle super specific places and try to change the culture at that location. The "place-based" strategy means targeting these locations is as important as targeting people as other new offenders will just take the place of those who are removed from a particular "hot" location. The plan detailed 20 spots across the city in neighborhoods including Avondale, Over-The-Rhine, Walnut Hill and East Price Hill. Many locations are are businesses that are known centers for criminal activity. Isaac the businesses targeted will not necessarily face closure--unless they are non-compliant with police.
• City Council is set to vote on an ordinance today that would help protect workers from wage theft. The ordinance, which was written by Vice Mayor David Mann, would allow the city to cut tax-agreements and force repayment of financial incentives if a business is found guilty of withholding worker wages. Migrant workers are often victims of this because of language barriers and possible undocumented immigration statuses.
• The University of Cincinnati is closer today to moving its law school to riverfront development The Banks. The finance committee of the university's board of trustees has voted to approve that move, which still needs full board approval. Should the board approve the proposal, the university will need to raise funds for a new facility and select a site at The Banks. Discussions about moving the law school to the riverfront have been circulating around the university for at least four years and have taken on more serious potential in the last few months.
• Xavier University tonight will host a town hall discussion on the state of Cincinnati 15 years after the city's civil unrest in Over-the-Rhine and other neighborhoods over the police shooting death of unarmed Timothy Thomas. Thomas was the 15th black citizen shot by Cincinnati police over the course of just a few years, and his death uncovered deep inequities in the city's policing and beyond. While national media has celebrated Cincinnati's historic collaborative agreement, which ushered in big changes to CPD, deep socioeconomic inequalities remain here and police shootings of unarmed black citizens remain a huge issue in other Ohio cities and nationwide. Tonight's discussion will include police reform activist Iris Roley, Rev. Damon Lynch III, Cincinnati Black Lives Matter activist Brian Taylor, civil rights lawyer Al Gerhardstein, and CPD Capt. Maris Harold. It starts at 7 p.m. at Xavier's Cintas Center.
• As Gov. John Kasich hangs out in New Hampshire trying to play nice with his fellow GOP presidential nominees, the Washington Post published a story on his attempted aggressive takeover of Youngstown City Schools. Last summer, Kasich's administration introduced a last minute amendment to an education bill that would put a state-appointed highly powerful executive in charge of the low income-area school district and would offer a cash-bonus charter, private, parochial or suburban schools that took Youngstown students. Kasich's crew made sure the bill and the 66-page amendment sailed through the legislature within a matter of days after they had worked with non-elected Youngstown officials for months to carefully craft the plan. The legislation was only halted by a legal challenge that its speedy passage violated legislative rules. The matter is still pending.
Employers who don’t pay their workers might have new penalties to worry about after Cincinnati City Council’s Feb. 3 meeting.
Council is poised to approve a new ordinance that would allow the city to rescind tax agreements and force repayment of incentives such as grants if a company is caught committing wage theft. The city could also bar a company caught not paying its workers from receiving future city contracts.
Council’s Budget and Finance Committee passed the ordinance 6-0 Feb. 1. Though it doesn’t create any new laws, the ordinance gives the city more options for enforcing existing state and federal anti-wage theft legislation.
Vice Mayor David Mann authored the ordinance, which came about through a push from the Over-the-Rhine based Interfaith Workers Center. Brennan Grayson, director of the IWC, says the ordinance is modeled on similar measures taken in other major cities.
A number of wage theft cases have been documented in Cincinnati and across Ohio. Between 2005 and 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor seized more than $6.5 million in wages construction companies shorted 5,500 Ohio workers laboring on public projects.
This summer, CityBeat wrote about immigrants who were initially shorted wages for their construction work on a fraternity near the University of Cincinnati. The workers were eventually able to gain back thousands of dollars in unpaid wages with the help of IWC.
Migrant workers are especially vulnerable to wage theft, often due to vulnerabilities that arise from limited language proficiency or, sometimes, their undocumented status.
“It’s no secret that people who don’t speak English are viewed as not being in a position to complain,” Councilman Wendell Young said at the budget and finance meeting.
Young would like to see additional measures that involve the city’s newly created Office of Economic Inclusion in wage theft-related issues.