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by Natalie Krebs 03.24.2016 60 days ago
at 01:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
yvette simpson

City Council Passes Homeless-to-Work Program

Pilot program will help homeless individuals transition into permanent employment

City Council approved a $50,000 pilot program on Wednesday to help assist homeless people with finding employment. The Homeless-to-Work program will employ 15 to 20 individuals in seasonal jobs and will also provide help with resumes and interview skills. The city funding will be matched by private donations. 

Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, who worked on the initiative for several months with city administrators, reiterated her optimism for the program after Council approved it unanimously. 

"I think if we can build a pilot program that creates a model for homeless individuals to go to work," she said, "I think it would be groundbreaking for our city and really start to peel back the layers of the issues we have in our community around poverty." 

The program is based off of similar programs in Albuquerque, N.M. and Reno, Nev. and will operate in partnership with Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, Building Value LLC. the Cincinnati Parks Department, which will offer seasonal jobs, and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, which will offer free transit.  

After an individual has shown competency with his or her seasonal employment, the program will offer a permanent position and will work with a casework for an additional year. Building Value and the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, along with St. Francis-St. Joseph Catholic Worker House, will monitor the program, which will begin immediately. 

"Our goal is to establish a sustainable program with a paycheck from the start and permanent employment outcomes," said Josh Spring, executive director of the Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, in a statement after the program passed. 

One of the biggest concerns with the project was the funding source, which had initially been proposed to come from the city budget's reserves. City Manager Harry Black released a memo Wednesday saying the funding instead would be redirected from the Cincinnati Police Department's Mounted Patrol unit, which has been suspended since last year. 

According to the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, approximately 25,000 people in Cincinnati experience homelessness every year.
 
 
by Natalie Krebs 03.24.2016 61 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
to do_smale riverfront park-courtesy cincinnati parks

Morning News and Stuff

Parks director could face trouble following Smale Park construction probes; preschool set to become big issue for this year's local election; Obamacare turns six

It took two and a half hours of debate at the transportation committee Tuesday, followed by another half hour of bickering at yesterday's City Council meeting, but they did it. In a vote of 6-2, Council finally approved the sunset ordinance that would allow the organizers of seven events to halt streetcar service. The ordinance would be active through 2018, the first two years of the streetcar's operation, and would allow organizers of the Flying Pig Marathon, Taste of Cincinnati, the Opening Day Parade, Oktoberfest, the Thanksgiving Day 10k, the Heart Mini Marathon and the Health Expo to give the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority a 90 day heads up to stop the streetcar during their event. Mayor John Cranley said at the meeting yesterday that these longstanding events need time to adjust to the streetcar. 

• Cincinnati Parks Director Willie Carden could be in big trouble following the recently uncovered drama surrounding the Smale Park construction. On Tuesday The Enquirer published an article claiming Carden hadn't been entirely honest about the bidding process for the park's construction contracts. Then, on Tuesday afternoon, City Manager Harry Black released a memo saying the park's contracting process was a risky move for the city. So what will happen to Carden? It's up to the Cincinnati Board of Park Commissioners to determine whether he will be punished — or even fired from his position — for the deals.

• Last year, the big election issue for Cincinnati (and the rest of Ohio) was marijuana, oligarchies and a weird mascot named Buddy. This year it looks like it will be education — preschool, to be specific. Preschool Promise, the group working on a ballot initiative to fund two years of preschool for Cincinnati children, could be battling alongside Cincinnati Public Schools' own levy for a preschool expansion on the ballot. Preschool Promise has yet to specifically say what kind of tax levy it's planning on asking Cincinnatians to approve to fund its ambitious plan. The current options are a hike in the city's property tax or earnings tax, or a countywide sales tax. CPS will ask for a property tax levy. Preschool Promise director Greg Landman says the group is still in negotiations with CPS to figure out how to make sure kids will get their preschool, politics aside. But as the election draws closer, many details have yet to come out. 

• The number of Hamilton County babies who died because of unsafe sleeping conditions doubled in 2015, according to the annual report by nonprofit Cradle Cincinnati. According to its 2015 report, 14 babies died from sleep-related deaths, while just seven did in 2014. Hamilton County struggles with a higher than average infant mortality rate. The county's 2015 infant mortality rate was nine for every 1,000 babies born, while Ohio's was 6.8 and the national average was 5.8, according to the report.  

• Obamacare turned 6 on Wednesday. So, naturally, politicians and health care advocates took to social media megaphone platform known as Twitter to share their still very intense feelings on the issue. Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown praised parts of the law for axing "pre-existing condition" clauses and allowing kids to hold on longer to their parents' plans. Sen. Republican Rob Portman, who is running for re-election against for Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, tweeted that it's not working and should be repealed. According to Enroll America, 1.3 million Ohioans were uninsured before the federal insurance marketplace started in 2013. Today, that number is 402,000.
 
 
by Natalie Krebs 03.23.2016 61 days ago
Posted In: News at 03:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Council Approves Halting Streetcar for Downtown Festivities

Ordinance allows organizers of seven major events to stop service

City Council passed an ordinance today that could halt the streetcar's operation during seven downtown heritage events during its first two years of operation. 

The sunset ordinance would give the organizers of the Flying Pig Marathon, Taste of Cincinnati, Oktoberfest, Opening Day Parade, Thanksgiving 10K, Health Expo and the Heart Mini Marathon 90 days before their event to alert Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) to stop service. The ordinance is effective through 2018 when City Council will re-evaluate it. 

After a two-and-a-half-hour debate in Council's Transportation Committee on Tuesday, the ordinance passed on Wednesday after about a half hour of debate in a vote of 6-2. Council members Wendell Young and Yvette Simpson voted against it; Councilman Chris Seelbach was absent from the meeting.

Mayor John Cranley, who introduced the ordinance, said event organizers had expressed interest in adapting their events to the streetcar but that there needs to be an adjustment period so they are not forced to do something drastic like move the event. 

"Some people are out there spinning this as if it's an attempt to hurt the streetcar," Cranley said. "I think it would be very bad for the streetcar if somehow these issues weren't resolved." 

Cranley also said the police and fire departments have expressed safety concerns about the streetcar's operation during events, which sometimes serve alcohol and often attract tens of thousands of attendees. 

Simpson said she believed Council needed more time to make the decision and to consider all possible options. 

"I just requested that we have more time," she said. "This is a very important endeavor for the organizations involved and the streetcar."

Councilman Kevin Flynn responded to Simpson, saying he believed the closures would amount to just 12 hours total, often during off-peak hours like Sundays.

"I think that we had the information we needed," he said.

Councilwoman Amy Murray, who is also the chair of the transportation committee, said it would be closed the minimum amount of time as required by any particular event. 

Neither Mayor Cranley nor any council members directly addressed concern over the potential loss of revenue the streetcar could face by closing during heavily attended events. It is currently facing possible budget deficits for its first two years of operation. 

The streetcar is scheduled to start running in a 3.6-mile loop through downtown and Over-the-Rhine in September. The first major event after its opening will be Oktoberfest.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.23.2016 62 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
to do_smale riverfront park-courtesy cincinnati parks

Morning News and Stuff

Questions emerge over Park Board contracts for Smale Park; Council fights yet again over streetcar; Kasich treading water after brutal primary losses

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

Remember back in November when all those accusations were flying about the way the Cincinnati Park Board operates? There are more questions now. As it turns out, the construction of Smale Riverfront Park downtown was carried out without contracts
ever going out for bid on the $97 million construction project. Instead, construction work was tucked into pre-existing contracts for maintenance, according to a Cincinnati Enquirer investigation. That likely violated city ordinances around proper bonding and insurance, and may have also violated other city and state laws. The funds for that work included $40 million in public dollars. Park officials say they played by the book, however, and didn’t break any rules in building the park on a short timeframe.

• There are new developments in the most tiresome and irritating local politics story in the country! Are you hyped? We all paid Cincinnati City Council to fight for two and a half hours yesterday about the streetcar again. This time, the wheel-spinning debate was over which downtown events the streetcar should close for. Council’s Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation committee eventually voted to pass an ordinance closing the transit project for seven events, including the Opening Day Parade, the Thanksgiving Day Race, the Flying Pig Marathon, Oktoberfest and others. Those first two will be able to close down the streetcar into the foreseeable future, while the ordinance allowing other events to do so will expire in 2018. Puzzlingly, some of the events able to shut down operations up to that time, including the Health Expo in Washington Park, don’t coincide with the streetcar route. Leaders from the events in question have indicated they’re willing to work with the city and aren’t trying to impede the streetcar. Previously, the city manager had the power to close the streetcar for up to four events a year.

• Across the river, the city of Covington has approved a syringe exchange program. Though the program hasn’t been created yet, city commissioners voted unanimously to allow a program that would allow drug users to turn in used needles for clean ones, reducing both the spread of blood-borne diseases and needles littering public spaces. Cases of Hepatitis C, for example, have soared in Northern Kentucky, rising to rates 20 times higher than the national average. The approval comes as the Northern Kentucky Health Department works to establish four exchanges in Covington, Florence, Newport and Williamstown. The Williamstown location opened last week, though none of the other sites have exchanges just yet.

• Staying south of the state line, U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, who represents Northern Kentucky, is calling for Ohio Gov. John Kasich to drop out of the GOP presidential primary. Massie, a Tea Party conservative, says Kasich has no chance to win at this point and should clear the way for leaders Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Massie didn’t go so far as to endorse either of those candidates, however. He originally supported U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a fellow Kentuckian, before Paul dropped out early in the race.

• So let’s talk about the primary a little more. Yesterday, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders took primary contests in Utah and Idaho by large margins while his Democratic primary opponent Hillary Clinton won Arizona. Those states were proportional, and Sanders took more delegates than Clinton, narrowing Clinton’s imposing delegate lead slightly. Meanwhile, Republican front runner Donald Trump took Arizona easily, gaining 58 delegates, while second-place contender Cruz took all 40 of Utah’s delegates. You’ll notice that Kasich’s name doesn’t appear anywhere in those results. He got crushed in the most recent round of primary voting — humiliatingly, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who has already dropped out, got more of the vote in Arizona. And despite being the traditionally establishment GOP candidate in the field, Kasich hasn’t really curried continued support from the party’s bigwigs. Former primary contender Jeb Bush, for example, has backed Cruz, not Kasich.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 03.22.2016 63 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
joebiden

Morning News and Stuff

Historic Preservation Board approves demolition of historical downtown building; Biden to visit Cincy; Obama asks Congress to normalize relations in Cuba

Good morning, Cincinnati. With sad news coming out of Belgium and historic news coming out of Cuba, it's a big day for international news. But first, here are your local headlines. 

• Cincinnati's Historic Preservation Board has approved a real estate developer's request to tear down two buildings located downtown at the corner of Eighth and Main streets. The request passed Monday in a vote of 5-1 pushing forward Hyde Park-based Greiwe Development Group's $50 million plan to build two new 14-story buildings to house 60 luxury condos. One of the buildings set for demolition is a six-story Italianate building, built as a warehouse in 1875. The other is a not-so-historical two-story building from the last century. The developers told the board that they had determined renovating the structures would result in a loss in their investment. 

• Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to be in Cincinnati this morning. Given how President Barack Obama is currently soaking up the Cuban sunshine in Havana, I would say Biden drew the executive short straw for travel this week. Biden will speak to a private fundraising event for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ted Strickland and has no public appearances scheduled. So if you want to catch a glimpse of the VP, you'll probably have to cough up the $500 entry fee for Strickland's event. 

• The Northern Kentucky Heroin Impact Response team wants to make sure Easter eggs are the only things kids are finding in their yards this upcoming holiday weekend. The group issued a warning Monday for parents to check for syringes before sending their kids out on Easter egg hunts. Health experts say the heroin epidemic sweeping region has led to an increase in discarded, used syringes popping up in public places. If you do happen to find one this weekend (or ever), you can learn about proper disposal here

• TourismOhio is launching a new campaign to boost tourism in the state. The campaign called "Ohio. Find It Here." will debut today and is targeted at the state's residents between the ages of 25 to 54. Mary Cusick, the director of TourismOhio said Governor John Kasich and the Development Services Agency asked her to "make Ohio look cool," which it is not, according to the tourism group's survey of residents of Ohio and its neighboring states. The new campaign is being released in time for Ohio's longer, sunnier months and will highlight the many fun and diverse activities the state has to offer. The state received more than $40 billion from tourism in 2014, the majority coming from in-state travelers. 

• Today voters in both parties in Arizona and Utah go to the polls, while Idaho Democrats hold their caucuses. Some Republicans are sweating the results as many in the party remain uncomfortable with frontrunner Donald Trump's lead. On the other side, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders aims for Utah and Idaho, where he is leading in polls, as tries to catch up to opponent Hillary Clinton's solid lead. 

• President Obama made his keynote speech in Havana today. In a major speech that was televised to 11 million Cubans on national television, Obama stood by Cuban leader Raul Castro and called on Congress to lift the trade embargo that has been in place since 1961 and normalize relations with the island nation. The president arrived in Cuba on Sunday with his family and is the first president to visit the country since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. You can read a recap here.

• By now, you've surely heard about the terrorist attacks that hit Brussels airport and a subway station near the headquarters of the European Union. The death toll is up to 34, with 14 at the airport and 20 in the metro station. European security officials had feared another attack following the Nov. 13 attack by Islamic radicals in Paris that killed 130. Obama condemned the attacks and pledged solidarity with Belgium as he took the stage in Havana. GOP presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich also released a statement this morning condemning the attacks.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.21.2016 64 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
todo_rosemary_clooney_mural_in-maysville_photo_greg_hume

Morning News and Stuff

Sierra Club blasts city, county MSD fight; Historic Conservation Board to hear downtown building demolition cases; Kasich rules out VP run

Hey all. Hope your weekend was rad. MusicNOW was incredible and I kinda wish I’d learned how to play like, concert piano or violin as a kid instead of boring guitar. Anyway, here’s what’s going on today in news.

You might need a little soundtrack for this first bit, and this weird song by hometown heroes Why? fits perfectly. Does the Cincinnati Metropolitan Sewer District need outside supervision? That’s what environmental advocacy group the Sierra Club says. The group, which filed a lawsuit that sparked a 2004 federal consent decree requiring a $3.4 billion update of the sewer system, is pushing for an outside overseer to make sure that work is being done efficiently and in a timely manner. Sierra Club asked for the outside oversight in the initial decree 12 years ago, but a federal judge ruled at the time that the city and county should be given time to work on the problems themselves. Now, with both governmental bodies feuding and the entire situation turning somewhat chaotic, Sierra Club is again asking for independent oversight.

• Another big mural is coming to Over-the-Rhine, and this time the public will get to help choose whom it will honor. Arts nonprofit Artworks will open voting March 28 to decide which famous Cincinnati woman will be depicted in its next project on the 1600 block of Pleasant Street near Findlay Market. So far, the possibilities include groundbreaking blues singer Mamie Smith, actress and civil rights activist Louise Beavers, Grammy-award winning singer and actress Rosemary Clooney, female professional baseball player Dorothy Kamenshek and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe.

• Here’s just a short blurb about how college basketball is dead to me. University of Cincinnati lost due to a last-second dunk that refs said was TOO last second. Xavier lost in an unbelievable game. March madness is already over for me, and apparently for Bill Murray as well. At least I’m in good company.

• Today, Cincinnati’s Historic Conservation Board will meet to begin deciding the fate of two Civil War-era downtown buildings that might face demolition. One of those buildings is the Dennison Hotel building on Main Street, and the other, which will likely be considered today, is another significantly sized building across the street. Owners of both buildings are asking for demolition permits to make way for new mixed-use construction project along the upcoming streetcar route. Historic preservation activists, who say the buildings can be redeveloped without demolition, are planning on attending the meetings about the buildings in order to advocate for their preservation. The conservation board’s meetings take place on the fifth floor at the Centennial Plaza II building at 805 Central Ave.

• Well, we’ve told you about the forthcoming Northern Kentucky theme park called the Ark Encounter, which will feature a full-sized Noah’s Ark replica. Well, some folks in the area are apparently pretty skeptical of the $90 million project. The Tri-State Freethinkers, a local group of advocates for the separation of church and state, are raising money to put up billboards criticizing the theme park, which is set after a court battle to receive $18 million in tax incentives from the state of Kentucky. The group was originally turned down for those credits because of its religious nature and the religious questions it asks on some job applications, but a judge ruled the group couldn’t be denied the credits for those reasons. The Freethinkers’ billboards, which could go up as soon as this week, will feature the phrase “Genocide and Incest Park,” a jab at the story of the great flood found in the bible’s Old Testament.

• Finally, it’s all or nothing for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is still a long-shot contender for the GOP presidential nomination. Kasich is banking on a brokered convention at this point and crossing his fingers that frontrunner Donald Trump doesn’t scoop up the 1,237 delegates needed to take the party’s primary outright. Not only is he sticking in the race, he’s saying he’s not in it for a consolation prize. Over the last week, he has ruled out running as vice president behind either Trump or second-place contestant U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Go hard or go home, I guess, but it’s probably going to be “go home” for Kasich. Actually, the convention is in Cleveland this summer, so I guess it’ll be going home for Kasich no matter what. But I digress.

News tips via Twitter or email. Later.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.18.2016 67 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
joe deters

Morning News and Stuff

Mayor's childhood poverty task force delays report; who won local Democratic party power struggle?; Trump nomination would force soul-searching for Democrats

Hey all! Here’s the news today.

First, let’s drill down a little bit more on something we talked about Wednesday, following primary voting — the ultra-local battle for precinct executive seats going on within the local Democratic Party. As we mentioned before, the winners of those seats help decide who the Cincinnati Democratic Committee will endorse in, say, the next mayoral race coming up in 2017. So, naturally, Mayor John Cranley, as well has his more liberal detractors within the party, both pulled out all the stops to get people friendly to their sides elected. As we told you Wednesday, a few high-profile Cranley backers lost their bids — but so did high-profile urban progressives like Ryan Messer, a vocal critic of Cranley. So who really won? According to this Business Courier story, because both sides are staying mum about who exactly is backing who among the 139 precinct executives elected Tuesday, it’s actually kind of hard to know how this very local, but very important, race shaped up. Interesting.

• A childhood poverty task force put together by Mayor Cranley and announced at his October state of the city address will delay its initial recommendations on how to fight one of the city’s biggest challenges. The Childhood Poverty Collaborative was initially slated to release its plans in June. But yesterday, CPC’s executive director Lynn Marmer announced that the group will delay that release until early November. In the meantime, it has hired research firm the Rand Corporation and has plans to hold more than 100 meetings in various communities throughout the city. Some critics say the problem has been studied enough and that it’s time for action. But CPC says the wealth of perspectives and data available make it essential to consider them all thoroughly before launching a plan.

• Former Veterans Affairs Chief of Staff Barbara Temeck won’t face charges related to prescriptions she wrote for a superior’s family member but will surrender her registration with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in relation to that misconduct. A wider investigation into misconduct at the VA continues after allegations arose from VA employees regarding under staffing, declining quality of care and other issues. Temeck’s attorneys say she performed the duties expected of her during her time at the agency and also reported financial irregularities and concerns about health care quality while there and is now seeing retaliation due to those complaints.

• Last month, University of Cincinnati reached a $4.85 million settlement with the family of Samuel DuBose, who UC police officer Ray Tensing shot and killed after a routine traffic stop in Mount Auburn. But the way that settlement will be paid out is interesting. UC itself is only on the hook for about $100,000 of that money upfront. An insurance consortium that insures most of Ohio’s large universities will pay much of the rest of the settlement. UC will see a portion of those costs over time in increased premiums, and the school will still pay for tuition for DuBose’s children.

• It isn't often that Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters supports letting someone out of prison, but he's doing exactly that in the case of Tyra Patterson, who is serving a 16-years-to-life sentence for her part in a 1994 group robbery that lead to the shooting death of a 15-year-old. Patterson says she's innocent. She's been in prison for 21 years. Deters, who believes she was involved in the robbery, says she's done her time and has rehabilitated herself. The prosecutor joins a number of high-profile officials calling on Ohio Gov. John Kasich to give Patterson clemency.

• Capping off a highly local edition of morning news today — Cincinnati city officials are working to revamp the city’s downtown business strategy. New efforts will include working to keep Race Street mainstay giants like Macy’s, officials say, but should also take a wider look at retail downtown and strive to expand small businesses and mixed use developments. Some of the new, more holistic approach will include data that hasn’t been available before now, officials say, which could help existing retailers while enticing new businesses into the central business district.

• Finally, are you Trumped out yet? If not, here’s an interesting piece on what a Donald Trump nomination by the GOP means for the Democratic Party. In short, the editorial argues that competing against Trump in the upcoming general election would force Democrats to once and for all decide between populist, working-class values and more economically conservative, business-friendly policies popular with some party elites. It’s worth a read.

I’m out! Have a good weekend. I’ll be at MusicNOW tomorrow getting in one last visit to Music Hall before it closes for renovations. Very excited for the show — I went last year and it was amazing. But I have a problem. Do I dress up? Wear my normal thrift store hipster junk? Mix and match? Help me.

E-mail or tweet at me with news tips or fashion suggestions.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 03.17.2016 68 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
santa ono

Morning News and Stuff

UC President Santa Ono wants the streetcar to go Uptown; CPS threatens to take back CCAC building; Creation Museum lays out plans to expand

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Cincy! Here are your morning headlines. 

University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono says he'd like to see the streetcar extend to go Uptown and to UC's campus. Ono first publicly announced his position in a recent speech that was posted on YouTube. Ono, who has previously supported the project privately, said solid public transit is important to attract millennials who are increasingly looking to go carless. Ono also reportedly emailed Daniel Traicoff, a former campaign aide to city council member Chris Seelbach, earlier this month asking how the university could aid the extension. However, the city might not be thinking as far ahead as Ono yet. It's still working on rolling out the first phase of the streetcar that will run through downtown and Over-the-Rhine beginning this fall and securing enough money to pay for its first two years. 

• Cincinnati Public Schools is threatening to take back the building now housing the Clifton Cultural Arts Center. The two groups have been unable to reach an agreement on the amount the school district should pay to rent out several of the CCAC's classrooms. While CPS actually owns the CCAC's building, it has leased the property to the arts center for 30 years, starting in 2008. But, according to the lease, CPS can break the contract if it determines it needs the space for educational purposes, which it's now saying it does. No final decisions have been made yet, and if CPS goes forward with its threats, it will be required to give the center a 365-day notice to vacate. 

• As I passed City Hall on my bike yesterday, I started thinking that the building has to be one of the most stunning city halls architecturally. Well, it seems Architectural Digest agrees with me, because it recently named the century-old building as one of its "9 City Halls with Amazing Architecture." The 1893 Richardsonian Romanesque-style building designed by Samuel Hannaford shares the list with new and old city hall buildings located in places like Las Vegas, Buffalo, New York and Austin, Texas. 

• The Creation Museum is Burlington, Kentucky, is planning an expansion. The tourist destination, which is famous for disputing scientific evidence with biblical teachings, has presented its plan to rezone 54.9 acres around the museum to the Boone County Fiscal Court for review. The expansion would include a new gift shop building, mini golf course and petting zoo, among other things. 

• Ohio law enforcement officials have less than a week to send in old rape kits to be tested. A law enacted March 23, 2015 requires that agencies submit untested kits for testing within a year and to process any news kits within 30 days. Under the new law, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation has tested 10,133 kits, resulting in 3,600 DNA hits and hundreds of new indictments. 

• SeaWorld today announced that it will stop breeding killer whales. This means the current generation living at its parks will be the last. The theme park is still struggling under the negative publicity brought by the 2012 book Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity and the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which asserted that the giant sea mammals are probably pretty miserable living in a large swimming pool surrounded by humans. SeaWorld previously announced in November that it would be phasing out its killer whale performances at the San Diego location.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.16.2016 69 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ghostsigns_dennisonhotel_jf2

Morning News and Stuff

Cincy named 10th-best skyline; tea party favorite takes primary for Boehner's seat; prosecutor in Rice shooting loses election

Good morning all. As you’d probably expect, we’re gonna talk about a lot of politics today.

The topline: Ohio Gov. John Kasich won the GOP presidential primary in Ohio last night, squeezing out Donald Trump here. Trump, however, picked up Florida and other states, pulling further ahead of his closest competitor U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and burying U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who has now suspended his campaign after losing in his home state. On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton easily bested U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, as she did in most of the other states voting yesterday. Clinton got 57 percent of the vote, including 60 percent in Hamilton County. Clinton now seems very likely to get her party's nomination. Kasich... well, he's hoping that Trump doesn't get to 1,237 delegates and that he may somehow come out on top in a brokered convention in Cleveland. Trump and Cruz, however, have other plans, and even former House Speaker John Boehner, who endorsed Kasich, has a dark horse favorite in this whole mess.

• Before we go deeper into the politics sinkhole, let’s talk about other stuff, shall we? Did you know that Cincinnati has the 10th-best skyline in the nation, according to a new ranking by travel site Thrillist.com? I mean, considering we invented Skyline and most other cities don’t have it at all, that seems like a pretty low score. Wait, sorry, they’re talking about buildings, not chili. (Did you know I was going to make that terrible joke? Of course you did.) Cincy beat out Atlanta, St. Louis, Nashville, Miami, Boston and a number of other cities that don’t have the prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge at their front door. Losers. In fact, our fair city placed only one spot lower than that one place that has the actual Brooklyn Bridge. We had a Roebling before it was cool, tho. Regional rivals Pittsburgh beat us handily, however, because they have three rivers instead of one. Seattle has the number one skyline on the list because it has mountains, a futuristic Jetsons tower and Puget Sound. Seems unfair really.

• Speaking of downtown buildings, Cincinnati could lose one of its more historic ones. The owners of 126-year-old Dennison Hotel on the 700 block of Main Street have applied for permits to tear it down. The Dennison was once upon a time single-room occupancy affordable housing but today stands vacant. Columbia REI LLC, which bought the building back in January, said in documents filed with the city that they’re putting together a group of properties in the area for a major development and that it’s most cost-effective to tear down the eight-story building. Columbia commissioned a report to study costs for converting the building into apartments, condos or office space, but that report didn’t take into account possible Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits in its cost analysis. The state has awarded those credits to a number of developments in Cincinnati.

• Sorry to do this to you, but it’s back to politics. After a bit of controversy among Democrats around mailers designed to promote candidates friendly to Mayor John Cranley for the party’s precinct executive positions, election results for those vying for the positions were mixed to say the least. Several candidates with ties to Cranley, including Cranley spokesman Kevin Osborne and his political consultant Jared Kamrass, lost their bids for those seats. Meanwhile, some more left-leaning candidates won their bids. That doesn’t necessarily mean the local Democratic Party is up for a seismic shift, but there are interesting power struggles happening on the county level. You can peruse the results here.

• Let’s look to the north to a surprising congressional race. Voters in former House Speaker John Boehner’s district opted for a tea party-aligned outsider in a Republican primary race that one point had 15 contestants. Troy-based businessman Warren Davidson won the contest and will go on to near-certain victory in the deep-red district’s general election. Pundits and political science academics say voters there sent a clear message about frustration with the political establishment not unlike the one offered by supporters of Donald Trump.

• The primary race for the Senate seat currently held by Republican Rob Portman offered few surprises last night, with the incumbent handily winning the GOP primary and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland winning the chance to oppose him in the Democratic primary. Strickland beat Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld on the strength of his name recognition and deeper campaign pockets. Strickland, who has been pretty aloof about Sittenfeld all along, is now focusing more fire on Portman, continuing to hit the Senator on statements saying he’d support GOP primary frontrunner Donald Trump if he’s nominated and also for backing the Republican party’s blockage of a U.S. Supreme Court nominee by President Barack Obama. Polling has the general election race neck and neck. It’ll be an interesting one as Democrats look to take back control of the Senate.

• Further north we go. In a surprising development, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty is out after losing his Democratic primary competition with former assistant prosecutor Michael O’Malley. McGinty got hit hard on the campaign trail for his failure to bring charges against officers involved in the November 2014 shooting death of Tamir Rice in Cleveland. McGinty’s ouster mirrors a similar development in Chicago, where voters dumped Chicago Prosecutor Anita Alvarez, who took deep criticism after city officials waited 400 days to release the police footage of officers shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald to death.

• Finally, let’s go back to the U.S. Supreme Court for a second. President Barack Obama today announced his nomination to fill a vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. In what may be the greatest troll move in history, Obama has nominated well-respected moderate and U.S. Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland to the nation’s highest court. Garland has garnered praise from many Republicans in the past. But GOP senators have still vowed to block his confirmation and seem unwilling to even grant him a hearing, saying that Obama should not nominate a justice in an election year.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.15.2016 70 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
vote logo

Morning News and Stuff

Sheriff Neil walks back Trump rally appearance; report: Metro funding model "unsustainable;" Romney stumps for Kasich in Ohio

Good morning all. Here’s what’s up in Cincy and beyond today.

It’s your last day to vote in the Ohio primary election, so go vote, vote, vote. You can find out your polling location and accepted identification (which includes your driver’s license, military ID or a current utility bill or bank statement with your address on it) here. It looks like we’ll have a big turnout for a primary — more than 14,000 people went to the ballot during the first hour of voting. More than 400,000 people across the state voted early — 80,000 more than 2012’s primary election.

• A new report says more revenue is needed for Hamilton County’s Metro bus system and that county taxpayers should ante up to pay for the service. The report by the 20-member Metro Futures Task Force, which has been in the works for six months, says current funding models for the bus service aren’t sustainable. Metro serves all of Hamilton County, but currently runs primarily on city taxes. The group didn’t say when a ballot initiative could go before county voters asking for money to fund the service, and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority leadership says all options, including fare increases or service reduction, are on the table as SORTA looks to make bus service more sustainable.

• Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil is distancing himself from GOP presidential primary frontrunner Donald Trump after appearing at his rally in West Chester Sunday afternoon. Neil has called his appearance “selfish” and says he only did so because Trump invited him to attend. Neil did not speak at the event, but did appear on stage in uniform and posed for pictures with Republican Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones at the event. Democrats, including Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke, immediately criticized Neil for his appearance at the event.

• Speaking of that rally, Trump gave a shoutout to Cincinnati’s hit king Pete Rose during that event, saying he should go to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. But now his eagerness to associate with Rose might have gotten Trump in some hot water. Trump Sunday also tweeted a picture of a baseball signed by Rose and bearing the message,  “Mr. Trump, please make America great again.” Some news organizations took that as a possible endorsement from Rose, something Trump’s campaign probably didn’t mind as he fights to win Ohio’s primary today. The only problem — Rose said through an attorney that he’s not endorsing anyone, and that he didn’t send Trump the signed ball at all. Oops.

• The sister of Avondale resident Sam DuBose, who was shot and killed by a UC police officer last summer, had some tough questions for Democratic presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders. At Sanders’ Sunday night town hall in Columbus, Terina Allen asked the candidate what he would do about police accountability if elected president and told him that DuBose would have celebrated his 44th birthday the day before had he not been shot. Sanders offered condolences for Allen’s loss, then outlined new training procedures for officers and said he would institute automatic Department of Justice investigations for citizens killed in police custody or while being apprehended by police.

Sanders is fighting Democratic presidential primary frontrunner Hillary Clinton for a victory in Ohio's primary today. The Vermont senator has trailed Clinton heavily here in the past — Ohio's moderate Democrats have long supported the Clintons — but a big upset in Michigan and intense on-the-ground campaigning efforts over the past week have made a dent, some polls show.

• Finally, in these last hours before primary voting ends, the question looms large: Will Ohio Gov. John Kasich win his home state or be given a humiliating loss at the tiny hands of Trump? Kasich has gotten a last minute friend to jump in and help him pull Ohio: former GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney. The prominent Republican and vocal Trump detractor hasn’t endorsed Kasich, per se, but was stumping for him across the state yesterday.

Polls show Kasich and Trump in a tight race for Ohio’s 66 delegates. Trump is currently winning in the delegate count, but losing big states like Ohio could keep him from reaching the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination outright, sending the whole mess to a complicated brokered convention. Another (slight possibility): U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, another ideological firebrand, could catch up to Trump if he doesn’t keep winning and still has the mathematical possibility of clenching the nomination himself. Outside the battle for Ohio, look for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to drop out soon if he doesn’t win his home state of Florida. It looks very unlikely that Rubio can pull off a win there, by the way, with Trump polling far ahead of Rubio there.

 
 

 

 

by Nick Swartsell 05.24.2016 4 hours ago
Posted In: News at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
trump

Morning News and Stuff

Judge divvies up DuBose settlement; council members request MSD audit; Clinton beating Trump in Ohio polls

Good morning all. Lots to talk about today so let’s get to it!

The 13 children of Samuel DuBose will each receive more than $200,000 as part of a settlement between the family and the University of Cincinnati, a Hamilton County judge ruled yesterday. DuBose was shot and killed by UC police officer Ray Tensing July 19 last year. In addition to the money for his children, DuBose’s mother Audrey DuBose will receive $90,000, his six siblings will receive $32,000 each and his father Sam Johnson will receive $25,000, Judge Ralph Winlker announced yesterday. The settlement, which also includes other elements such as college tuition for DuBose’s children, resolves a civil suit against the university. Criminal proceedings are ongoing against former officer Tensing, who is charged with murder and manslaughter. He’s scheduled to stand trial on those charges in October.

• Cincinnati City Council members are requesting the recently completed audit of the region’s Metropolitan Sewer District ahead of the city's budget process, but City Manager Harry Black says they shouldn't rush. The audit, which resulted from revelations that MSD spent millions on contracts it didn’t properly put through a bidding process, is still with the city’s lawyers in a working draft form, Black says. But with work on the city’s budget looming, council members like Kevin Flynn and Chris Seelbach say the time is now to reveal the results of the audit. Things got testy when Council pushed for more information from the audit at yesterday’s budget and finance committee meeting, with Black resisting requests for that information and Seelbach accusing the city manager of giving him an eye roll. Oh snap.

• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is at the White House today meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and state and local government officials as part of a discussion on gun violence. Sittenfeld made gun control a big part of his campaign when he was running for Senate against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland. Sittenfeld lost that race but has pledged to continue efforts to curtail shootings. He told WVXU he is there to learn more about strategies for curbing gun violence and that he doesn’t think the invite has anything to do with his former Senate campaign. President Barack Obama and VP Biden endorsed Strickland in that race.

This is a weird article. Breaking news: The city has a lot of stairs. Some of them are crumbling. More breaking news: The city isn’t exactly rushing to pay to fix them. Thus concludes your breaking news update about something you probably already knew about. The steps are a big part of the city’s walking infrastructure (I take them every day). But they’ve been neglected since, well, probably since people started moving out of the city. The money it would take to fix them is also an infinitesimally small portion of the city’s budget at a time when Mayor John Cranley is discussing throwing $30 million to a few city neighborhoods.

• A federal judge has temporarily blocked an Ohio law that would strip $1.4 million in public money from Planned Parenthood in the state. That money goes to providing health screenings for low-income women, not to providing abortions. The temporary restraining order keeping Ohio from enforcing the law, which passed in February, comes as a larger court fight around the measure continues. You can read more about all of that in our story here.

• Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost yesterday announced the results of surprise headcounts at Ohio charter schools, saying at least some of the schools had very few or no students attending on the days of the unannounced visits. Yost said the extremely low attendance numbers at three charters in the state suggests they might be operating illegally as distance learning schools instead of the brick and mortar schools they’re certified to operate as. It’s the latest revelation in a bad stretch for the state’s charters, which have faced allegations of mismanagement and an Ohio Department of Education data rigging scandal that artificially inflated charter school performance by omitting some low-performing online schools. Yost visited 14 drop-out recovery schools around the state and found an average attendance of just 34 percent.

• The revelations, as well as other frustrations with the state’s public schools, had the auditor spitting hot fire at the ODE yesterday, calling it “among the worst, if not the worst-run agency in state government.” Yost cited poor charter school accountability and performance as well as a slow roll out for ODE’s new data management system as among the sources for his frustration with the agency.

• Finally, more presidential politics, because I know you need more of that in your life. Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump in Ohio, according to the latest polls asking voters about the upcoming general election. But it’s not the blowout you might expect. Clinton’s up 44 percent to Trump’s 39 percent in the Buckeye State — less than her primary opponent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who bests Trump 48 percent to 39 percent in the CBS/YouGov poll. Voters have a pretty negative opinion of both candidates, however — 55 percent view Clinton negatively and 59 percent feel the same about Trump.

That’s it for me. See you tomorrow. Tweet or email in the meantime.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.23.2016 21 hours ago
Posted In: News, Women's Health at 03:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_protester_7-9 copy

Federal Court Blocks Ohio Law Defunding Planned Parenthood

Temporary restraining order against the state will allow Planned Parenthood to continue providing health services for now

A federal circuit court today temporarily blocked an Ohio law that would strip Planned Parenthood of about $1.4 million in state and federal funds.

That law was slated to go into effect today, but will now be placed on hold until June 6 as the court considers a longer-lasting injunction against the defunding move by conservative state lawmakers. 

The money the state seeks to withhold is used by Planned Parenthood to provide non-abortion healthcare services, including HIV and cancer screenings. 

Judge Michael R. Barrett of the U.S. Southwest District Court ruled that the organization’s challenge to the law has a significant chance of success in federal courts, and thus placed a temporary restraining order on the state, preventing it from enforcing the law for the time being.

Barrett agreed with Planned Parenthood’s arguments that the law blocking the money could severely damage medical-screening activities the organization undertakes, and that those operations could be hard to reestablish.

“Plaintiffs explain that without the funds at issue here, Plaintiffs will be forced to stop providing services such as pap smears and other cancer screenings, tests for HIV/AIDS and tests and treatment for other STDs, infant mortality prevention programs, and sexual health education programs,” Barrett wrote in his ruling today. “Therefore, the Court concludes that for purposes of deciding Plaintiffs’ Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Plaintiffs have established irreparable injury.”

In seeking the injunction, Planned Parenthood argues that the law violates the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment by targeting the organization due to the fact it provides abortions.

State lawmakers have been open in acknowledging that they seek to strip funds from Planned Parenthood because the organization provides abortions, even though the public money given to the organization goes to other health services.

Conservatives in the state house have said they’re opposed to abortion for moral and safety reasons, and have described their crackdown on abortion providers like Planned Parenthood as a way to protect women.

“We have an obligation to say to Planned Parenthood, until you get out of the business of termination of pregnancy, the destruction of human life, we are not going to choose to fund you,” Ohio Sen. Peggy Lehner, a Republican who helped push the law, said during debate over the defunding provision in January.

But Planned Parenthood claims these clinics aren't immediately in a position to fill the healthcare gaps it would leave, which would include 70,000 free STD screenings it provides through a Centers for Disease Control program and 5,000 free HIV tests for populations at high risk for the virus.

Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio serves 20 counties in the region. It says about 75 percent of its clients are low-income.
 
The defunding effort is the latest in a recent string of laws passed by Ohio Republicans seeking to limit abortions. The state has passed ever-stricter standards, including stipulations about admitting privileges at local hospitals and rules against publicly funded hospitals entering into such agreements with abortion clinics. That’s whittled down the number of clinics in the state from 14 a few years ago to just nine today. Among them is the last clinic in the Cincinnati area, the Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn, which has been threatened with closure over the new laws.

Planned Parenthood officials cheered the federal court’s decision today.

“This ruling is a victory for the tens of thousands of Ohioans that rely on Planned Parenthood for care each year,” said Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio CEO Jerry Lawson. “Our state legislators want to ban abortion across the board, and they were willing to decimate access to preventive care in the process. But this isn’t about politics for our patients, it’s about their health and their lives. If you have a lump in your breast or need an HIV test, lawmakers should be making it easier, not harder, to get the care you need.”

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.23.2016 27 hours ago
Posted In: News at 09:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
michelle dillingham 2

Morning News and Stuff

City's top brass all got raises last year; local Dems tussle over 2017; historic Bavarian Brewery safe for now

Hey hey Cincinnati. Hope you got outside and soaked up the perfect weather this weekend. Now it’s back to the real world, where news happens.

The directors of every city of Cincinnati department received raises this past year, according to city records reported by The Cincinnati Enquirer. In total, those raises are costing city taxpayers $234,000 more a year. Some of the city’s 25 department heads got those pay bumps despite making few of their stated goals and receiving rather mixed performance reviews. Top salary getters include Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac, whose $162,000 paycheck is 20 percent more than his predecessor Chief Jeffrey Blackwell made. Fire Chief Richard Braun, who is now also making $162,000, saw his pay raised 16 percent. Those raises came during a time when the city projected as much as a $14 million budget deficit. That deficit was cut in half by more recent economic projections, but could still trigger cuts to the city’s human services and economic development efforts, among other services. The city manager’s recently released budget calls for a 1 percent raise for all city employees, and police and fire personnel are negotiating to get a 3 percent bump.

• Speaking of the budget, Mayor John Cranley is set to unveil his ideas for the city’s financial plan today at 11 a.m. at Westwood Town Hall, according to a news release from the mayor's office. On the agenda: $30 million for neighborhood projects in that neighborhood and in places like West Price Hill, North Avondale, Bond Hill and others. City Manager Black released his budget proposal Thursday, and Cranley has two weeks to submit his version to City Council. He’ll be presenting his version of the budget at town halls throughout the week.

• We haven’t even survived 2016 yet, but we’re already talking about the election after it. Last week, we told you about the increasing focus around Cincinnati’s 2017 mayoral and City Council races. Now, after revelations that Councilwoman Yvette Simpson sent out a memo to potential firms that could help her in a bid opposing fellow Dem Cranley, Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke is asking party members to focus on this year’s election. Burke has said it’s too early to focus on next year just yet when there are big races at the county level — most notably a pitched fight for control of the Hamilton County Commission. State Rep. Denise Driehaus is running to grab a seat on that body, and if she pulls out a victory against Republican interim commissioner Dennis Deters, the three-member group that oversees the county could have a Democrat majority for the first time in years. But the call for unity from Burke comes as the party is experiencing tension between two factions in the city: younger, more progressive Dems who tended to support the streetcar and who push for items like increases in human services funding, and more established, moderate Democrats like Mayor Cranley.

• That battle continues to shape up: progressive 2013 City Council candidate Michelle Dillingham is launching her bid for a Council seat in the 2017 election tonight at Bromwell’s Harth-Lounge at 6 p.m. Dillingham came in 12th in that race and hopes to turn support for her from progressives into a Council seat this time around.

• A historic building in Covington will get at least a little more time safe from the wrecking ball. Kenton County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Summe told Bavarian Brewery owners Columbia Sussex that they can’t demolish the 100-year-old building. The structure, which sits in a historic district, once held Jillian’s nightclub. Columbia-Sussex originally wanted to put a casino on the property, but Kentucky legislators have yet to pass a law that would allow that to happen. Now, the company says the only way it can see a return on investment is by demolishing the building. Covington’s Urban Design Review Board previously denied a permit application for that demolition, and Judge Summe’s ruling affirms that position. Columbia-Sussex can appeal her decision, however.

• Finally, University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono made big news over the weekend with his admission that he suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts as a younger man. Ono made the revelation at a fundraiser Saturday for mental health-awareness group 1N5, whose name is a reference to research that shows one in five individuals in the United States suffers from mental illness. Ono said that by talking about his past struggles, he hoped to show that mental illness is treatable and nothing to be ashamed of.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 05.20.2016 4 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
yvette simpson

Morning News and Stuff

Councilwoman Simpson drops hints at possible mayoral run; UC down to final candidates for police chief; Oklahoma passes most restrictive abortion bill yet

Good morning y’all! Here are your morning headlines.

• Councilwoman Yvette Simpson might have released the first shred of evidence that she’s running for mayor next year. Simpson sent a letter to consulting firms this month searching for someone who could help with a “campaign against an incumbent executive office holder,” aka Mayor John Cranley. Simpson won’t officially say yet whether she’s going to take a shot at Cranley’s spot or just run for a third term on Council in 2017 but says she’ll make a decision by the end of this year.

• It’s that super exciting time of year when the city lays out its budget for next year. Yesterday, City Manager Harry Black presented his plan for a $1.2 billion city budget that includes raises for city employees, cuts to the human service department and the city’s economic development programs and building a new marina. Yep, the city wants the Parks Department to build a marina along the Ohio River. Mayor Cranley has two weeks to present the budget to Council, which will then approve or amend it some time before the next fiscal year begins on July 1.

• The University of Cincinnati Department of Public Safety says it is down to three candidates to lead the department. The candidates were chosen by an outside consulting firm and include the director of public safety at Oregon State University, a previous CPD officer with more than 20 years experience and police deputy chief at Ohio State. The department is also down to two candidates for assistant chief, including a CPD Department Captain. UC will present the candidates to the public during open forums will be held May 23-25. Former Police Chief Jason Goodrich and Assistant Chief Tim Thornton resigned in February in the wake of the shooting of Mount Auburn resident Samuel DuBose by former UC police officer Ray Tensing.

• Judge Tracie Hunter will not be going to jail today. The suspended juvenile court judge was supposed to start her 60-day jail sentence today, but a judge suspended her sentence after Hunter filed a petition claiming misconduct by the special prosecutor and judge during her trial. Federal Judge Timothy Black ruled Hunter can remain free during the proceedings. A jury convicted Hunter of unlawful interest in a public contract for helping her brother in a discipline hearing 19 months ago.

• Could U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown become Vice President Brown? Yesterday, Sen. Brown was seen parading around with current VP Joe Biden in Columbus, leading to rumors that the progressive senator could be Hillary Clinton’s pick for running mate. Nothing is certain yet, as Biden told White House reporters that Brown would be a “great pick” but then went on to highlight other strong Democratic contenders without hinting at a favorite.

• Oklahoma’s Republican-dominated legislature passed a bill yesterday that would subject doctors to felony charges and revoke their medical licenses for performing abortions. The bill — which is most restrictive abortion bill passed yet — is still waiting on a signature from Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. If signed in to law, it will almost certainly be challenged in state or federal court where legal experts say it will likely be declared unconstitutional.

News tips go here.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.19.2016 4 days ago
Posted In: News at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

It's City Budget Season Again!

On deck: a marina at Smale, employee raises and cuts to human services

Are you ready for city budget season? It started today.

City Manager Harry Black this morning presented his vision for Cincinnati’s fiscal year 2017 spending blueprint; a $1.2 billion budget he touts as structurally balanced. On deck: a literal deck, as in, a marina along the Ohio River built by the Cincinnati Parks Department, raises for city employees — three percent for police and fire, plus a boost for low-paid workers through a municipal living wage initiative — and cuts to some agencies to make up for a projected $6.7 million revenue shortfall, priming another potential battle over the city’s human services funding.

Last year, Council battled for, and received, $3 million for human services to be spent through a United Way-run funding process, which vets social service organizations based on effectiveness. This year, that amount will drop to $2,781,000.

That nine percent drop once again falls short of a City Council commitment set last decade pledging to commit at least 1.5 percent of the city’s operating budget to human services.

Other organizations now, but not previously, categorized in the human services section of the budget will also take hits. Mayor John Cranley’s Hand Up Initiative, which runs through Cincinnati Works, will receive $225,000 — $25,000 less than last year. Some programs previously funded by the city, like Cradle Cincinnati, which seeks to address the city’s high infant mortality rate, will receive no money at all. Last year, Cradle got $250,000 from the city’s human services fund.

Not everyone will lose when it comes to human services funding, however. The Center for Closing the Health Gap, run by close Cranley ally and former mayor Dwight Tillery, will see its city funding boosted to $1 million, a $250,000 increase over last year. The organization has received increases in past budgets under Cranley as well.

The city’s economic development programs will also see big cuts. Nearly every program funded by that portion of the budget will take hits, totaling about $285,000. Only MORTAR, a program seeking to boost minority entrepreneurship, will see a slight budget boost.

The funding cuts could have been worse: originally, the city was projected to have as much as a $14 million deficit. But revised projections by University of Cincinnati economists showed the revenue gap will be about half that size. Income tax revenues to the city are expected to grow by 4.6 percent, according to a report on the budget issued by City Manager Black.

But the need for cuts elsewhere won’t stop the city from investing in a marina along Smale Riverfront Park. The park board today voted to go forward with the project, which has been in the works for nearly two decades, and Black’s budget calls for $750,000 of city money to go toward the estimated $3.6 million cost of the project. That money is part of $4 million in Black's budget for parks capital projects. Other money could come from past federal funds for Smale, as well as an application for a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The board says the project, which as proposed would have room for 29 boats, will generate revenue for the parks department.

More on the budget as the process unfolds; this party is just getting started. Mayor Cranley has two weeks to present the budget to Council, which will then vote to approve or amend it. The process should wrap up sometime before July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.19.2016 5 days ago
Posted In: News at 12:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
sherrod brown

Will Sen. Sherrod Brown be Clinton's VP Pick?

Appearance yesterday in Columbus with VP Joe Biden stokes speculation

You might have missed it, but U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from the Cleveland area, was traveling around with Vice President Joe Biden yesterday in Columbus.

It’s easy to see the two palling around as a hint that Brown, whose name has been tossed around as a running mate for Democratic presidential primary frontrunner Hillary Clinton, might be next in line for Biden’s job.

But is Brown actually a contender in the veepstakes?

So far, the gruff-voiced progressive senator has demurred on that suggestion, trying to shift the spotlight to other potential VP picks.

“I think Secretary Perez and Tim Kaine would be good vice presidents,” Brown told media yesterday. Tom Perez is Obama’s labor secretary, and Kaine is a U.S. senator from Virginia.

Biden and Brown were visiting the Buckeye State to tout President Barack Obama’s move to extend overtime pay to more U.S. workers, and to do some politicking around the 2016 election. Ohio is a vital swing state for 2016 presidential contenders, a fact that Biden acknowledged was a factor in the trip. More specifically, the two did a bit of campaigning for former Democratic Ohio governor Ted Strickland, who is campaigning to take Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s seat in November.

Ohio’s Senate situation could provide a good reason Brown wouldn’t get the VP nod from Clinton. As Brown himself has pointed out, he would have to leave his Senate seat before 2018, when he’s up for reelection. Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich would then get to pick his replacement. That’s a seat Democrats can’t afford to lose as they wrestle to regain control of Congress.

But don’t count Brown out just yet.

Biden yesterday told White House reporters that Brown “would be a great pick” as Clinton’s running mate. But he also highlighted the strong pool of candidates Democrats have available and didn’t offer an endorsements.

Among other possible picks are Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and progressive firebrand Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who some say Clinton could choose to try and build a bridge with supporters of her primary rival, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.19.2016 5 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
skyline

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati population rises slightly; NKU loses 100 jobs to budget cuts; health officials scramble to find clinics to replace Planned Parenthood

Good morning all. Let’s talk about that news stuff.

Cincinnati’s population increased slightly again last year, though not as much as the surrounding suburbs. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the Queen City’s population grew to 298,550 people from the 298,041 who lived here in 2014. That’s a .17 percent bump — smaller than the metropolitan area’s growth rate of .4 percent. But hey, at least we’re not losing people like we were just a decade ago, and like cities such as Cleveland, St. Louis and Pittsburgh still are. Other cities in our region outperformed us in population growth, however, including Columbus, Indianapolis and Louisville, which each added a couple thousand people. So, Cincy’s doing OK when it comes to rebounding from decades of population loss, but could be doing better. Personally, I’d like to see us get above 300,000 again, so please, invite 1,450 of your closest friends to move here. Just as long as they’re not jerks.

• Did you know that your sewer bills have helped pay the salaries of the Cincinnati Park Board? It’s true, apparently. Due to some joint cooperation between the city’s Metropolitan Sewer District and the parks, money from MSD goes to personnel like Parks Director Willie Carden. That money exchange started when parks began helping MSD with some green infrastructure projects, but now some county officials are questioning whether the funding should go so far as to pay administrative salaries. Both MSD and parks have been mired in recent oversight issues around spending, so this revelation will probably anger some folks. You can read more about the situation here.

• Soon, you’ll be able to hop on Metro buses and the streetcar using a mobile app to pay your fare. Officials with the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority Tuesday announced an agreement with Passport, which makes payment apps. The contract between the two means that riders will be able to pay via a Passport app and show Metro and streetcar drivers their tickets on their phone. That will eliminate the need to carry cash for many customers, SORTA officials say. The app will also let riders track their bus as it makes its way to the bus stop, which is pretty cool.

• Hamilton County Democrats have tapped a big-name political consultant to help turn the county blue in the 2016 election. Candidates for county-wide office have pooled campaign funds to hire Ernie Davis, a longtime political consultant for the party. Davis will help strategize ways to convince voters to elect down-ballot candidates come November, including Hamilton County Commission candidate Denise Driehaus, Aftab Pureval for clerk of courts and others. Driehaus is in a highly competitive race with Dennis Deters for the Commission seat, which Deters currently holds after the surprise departure of former commissioner Greg Hartmann. Pureval faces a tougher challenge against current Clerk of Courts Tracy Winkler, a well-established Republican.

• You might have guessed that outspoken immigration critic Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones has something to say about Cincinnati City Council’s recent move to recognize alternate IDs for those without state-issued identification, including undocumented immigrants. You’d be right. Like any reputable, professional public servant, Jones weighed in on the issue in a tweet asking Butler County officials not to recognize cards provided by the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati.

“I am asking butler county not 2 except Cincinnati mark cards for illegals,” Jones tweeted recently. He later clarified that he meant “MARCC ID cards,” though he has yet to confirm that he meant to use the word “accept” instead of “except.”

• Northern Kentucky University will cut more than 100 jobs in response to budget cuts to higher education from recently elected Governor Matt Bevin. NKU will eliminate 37 faculty positions and 68 staff and administrative positions as part of the attempt to make do with less money from the state. The move will save the school about $8 million. Funding for higher education in Kentucky has been sliding for most of the decade, officials with the school say, forcing tough situations for all the state’s public universities. The funding crunch has gotten worse in the state’s most recent budget, however, as Bevin looks to drastically cut state spending.

• Health officials in Ohio are scrambling to find replacement clinics that can administer services like HIV and cancer screenings ahead of a state move to cut federal and state funding for such services from Planned Parenthood. Many health officials say it’s challenging to find other clinics that can step into the void left by the controversial health organization, which state lawmakers say shouldn’t receive public money because it provides abortions. The $1 million conservatives are withholding from Planned Parenthood didn’t go to providing that service, but instead went to other health services. Lawmakers say the money will be rerouted to other clinics that don’t provide abortions, but critics say there aren’t enough clinics with the capacity to take over for Planned Parenthood.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.18.2016 6 days ago
at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
eats2_roundingthird_madtree

Morning News and Stuff

MadTree breaks ground on new facility; Sittenfeld weighs options; Clinton takes Kentucky primary

Hey all. It's news time.

Let’s start out with some good news today, shall we? Yesterday, MadTree Brewering Co. hosted a ground-breaking celebration for their new Oakley brewing facility, MadTree 2.0. That facility in a former manufacturing site in Oakley will have 50,000 square feet of production space and another 10,000 square feet for a beer garden. The move is a sign of the brewery’s growth: The new site will allow MadTree to quadruple its production and the beer garden is twice the size of its current taproom.

• The controversial Dennison Hotel might soon be designated an “endangered” historic site by a statewide preservation nonprofit. Columbus-based Preservation Ohio is set to announce its list of endangered buildings across the state today. Local preservationists have nominated the Dennison, constructed downtown in 1892 by the firm of noted architect Samuel Hannaford. That designation won’t necessarily provide more legal protection for the building, which could soon face demolition by owners the Joseph family pending a May 26 Historic Conservation Board vote. But appearing on the list can draw more attention and support for historic structures, preservationists say.

• As we’ve talked about here and elsewhere in CityBeat a lot, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is still walking off a loss in the Democratic Party’s Ohio primary against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland for the chance to challenge U.S. Sen. Rob Portman for his Senate seat. So what’s a young man who just lost a Senate race to do? Sittenfeld is weighing his professional options, it seems. He told WCPO recently that he has yet to decide whether to seek a third term on Cincinnati City Council. Sittenfeld, just 31, was the top vote-getter in his first run for the office. If he doesn’t do that, he might jump into a startup venture and wait until he’s a bit more seasoned to continue his career in politics. In the meantime, he’s going full-tilt on Council, and has some solid summer plans: getting married.  

• The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is one of my favorite places, like, ever, which makes this story all the more heartbreaking. Overdoses at the main branch of the library downtown have increased significantly as the heroin crisis continues to grip our region. The main branch is on pace to see 18 overdoses this year — as many as the last two years combined. Solutions to the problem might be difficult, police say, and the situation is just one sign of the larger opiate problem that has taken hold in Ohio and other parts of the country. That problem persists, even as treatment options for addiction have narrowed for many low-income people.

• Finally, how’d that Democratic presidential primary contest go just south of the Ohio River last night? It was a nail-biter. Dem frontrunner Hillary Clinton ended up pulling out a slim victory over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. She took 46.8 percent of the vote, netting 29 delegates, to Sanders’ 46.3 percent of the vote and 27 delegates.

The contest didn’t matter much numerically — Clinton still has a comfortable lead in the overall primary, and Sanders only the narrowest path to victory, even with his win in Oregon’s primary last night. But Clinton desperately wants to put the primary behind her and focus on the general election, where she’s likely to face off against GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump. The problem for her: Democratic voters aren’t lining up behind her yet, instead continuing to support Sanders’ populist campaign and somewhat more liberal message. Upcoming early June primaries should put Clinton over the top numbers-wise for the nomination, but even after she sews up the primary, she’ll have a bigger task: wooing Sanders supporters to back her in the general election. That may be a big hill to climb, given what happened in Nevada last week and the overall contentiousness of the Democratic primary this season.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 05.17.2016 7 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Kentucky holds its primary today; UC to begin renovating basketball arena in June; CDC ranks Kentucky as top risk for HIV outbreak

Do you live in Kentucky? Well, if you do, it's primary day! Unfortunately, it looks like Kentucky's primary has come too late for Republicans to participate in what was the GOP presidential show down. Kentuckians won't be able to vote on which Republican they'd like to see in the White House because Trump became the presumed nominee earlier this month after all other candidates dropped out. But Democrats can still cast their votes for Team Clinton or Team Sanders. If that's not enough to get you to the polls, you can also vote on one of the little-known candidates running for Rand Paul's U.S. Senate seat and who gets to fill the vacant spot in the state House left by retiring state Rep. Tom Kerr. 

• University of Cincinnati construction partner Skanska and Megan Construction announced Monday that it has signed a $70 million deal to begin renovating the Bearcats' basketball arena in June. The University says it's still fundraising to come up with the rest of the money for the planned $87 million renovation of Fifth Third Arena. The announcement appears to be UC's latest attempt to flaunt its feathers to convince Big 12 officials to allow the university to join the conference, which UC has been trying to join for two years. UC officials are scheduled to meet with Big 12 officials in Dallas in two weeks.

• The Centers for Disease Control is concerned that Kentucky's heroin crisis is leading to another possible crisis: an AIDS/HIV outbreak. The CDC has ranked Kentucky as the state with the highest risk for an HIV outbreak, placing thirteen of the state's counties on its top 20 at-risk list. The federal agency began analyzing every U.S. county after the virus rapidly spread through needle sharing in rural Scott County, Indiana, which has a population of just 20,000 people, and found 220 counties posed a high risk for an outbreak, which includes nearby Brown and Adams counties in Ohio.

• Less than two weeks after bidding farewell to his shot at the White House, Gov. John Kasich sat down on Monday with CNN's Anderson Cooper. In his first interview since dropping out of the race, Kasich told Cooper he wasn't quite ready to endorse presumed Republican nominee Donald Trump, he definitely won't be running as a third party candidate and Republicans need to start appealing to more minority groups if they hope to win the election.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.16.2016 8 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Clinton in NKY; OTR gets beer garden; Kasich won't mount independent prez bid

Hey all. Let’s do this news thing.

Democrat presidential primary front runner Hillary Clinton came to Northern Kentucky yesterday for some last-minute campaigning before the state’s primary tomorrow. Clinton mostly bashed her likely general election opponent, real estate magnate and GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump, and didn’t mention her primary opponent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was also campaigning around the state. In addition to landing punches against Trump, Clinton touched on local issues like replacing the Brent Spence Bridge and the region’s heroin crisis. There has been limited polling in Kentucky, so it’s hard to know who’s ahead. The primary is closed, meaning independents can’t vote in it. That should help Clinton. On the other hand, the state’s demographic makeup — heavily white and working class — looks to work in Sanders’ favor, given results in other states. Stay tuned.

• Speaking of the Brent Spence, the bridge carrying I-75 over the Ohio River into Kentucky just got some national media attention. It’s not necessarily the good kind of press, though. The Hill, a D.C.-centric publication covering national politics and policy, put the 53-year-old bridge at the top of an article about the nation’s “Five Big Infrastructure Emergencies.” The article highlighted the struggle over how to pay for a replacement and the fact that the bridge carries four percent of the nation’s gross national product over it every year.

• Cincinnati has scored its biggest major conference since 2012, but the crowds won’t be coming for a little bit. The African American Methodist Episcopalian Church announced yesterday it will hold its 2024 convention in Cincinnati. It’s one of the largest African American conventions in the country and is expected to draw 20,000 people. The last time the city saw that many guests at once was the World Choir Games four years ago. It’s not the only convention Cincinnati has slated, however. This year, the NAACP will hold its national conference here, which is expected to draw 10,000 people and is one of the most important political conventions in the country — an especially big get for the city considering we’re in the midst of one of the most intense presidential campaigns in modern memory.

• There is about to be a beer garden on Central Parkway in Over-the-Rhine. Queen City Radio, named for the former business that occupied the location at West 12th Street, will carry local brews like Braxton, Listermann’s, Rhinegeist, Morelein, Madtree, Rivertown and others. It’s also right next to the Central Parkway Bikeway, something owners and siblings Louisa Reckman and Gabriel Deutsch have highlighted as a reason for choosing the location. The two expect to open in July.

• Former house speaker John Boehner spoke this weekend at Xavier University’s graduation, though he didn’t drop any news-making bombs about the 2016 presidential election like he did at an earlier speech at Stanford last month. Boehner, who graduated from Xavier before his career in Congress, stuck mostly to the inspirational fare common to commencement addresses. But in true form, he did tear up a little bit. Boehner last month told a group of students at Stanford that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, then a presidential primary contender, was "Lucifer in the flesh."

• Kentucky public schools will resist an order from the federal government requiring it to recognize the expressed gender identity of transgender students, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has said. That sets up a big fight between the state, as well as some others in the South, and the federal government. President Barack Obama announced the measure, an effort to clarify standards under the anti-sex-discrimination law known as Title IX. Bevin says the order amounts to intimidation by the feds, however, and that Kentucky won’t comply.

• Following the exit of the last opponents to GOP presidential primary presumptive nominee Donald Trump, some bigwigs in the party have taken up an effort to draft a third-party candidate to compete against the real estate mogul and his Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton. But Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who was briefly Trump’s last opponent standing, won’t be that candidate. Despite being on a shortlist of possible Trump/Clinton challengers, a staffer for Kasich’s campaign told Columbus’ 10TV that Kasich isn’t interested in that particular suicide mission, which is perhaps the most clear-headed decision the governor has made in this whole mess.

 
 
 
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