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by Nick Swartsell 02.24.2016 68 days ago
Posted In: News, Cycling at 12:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Opinion: Removing Central Parkway Bikeway Is a Bad Idea

Efforts to improve safety — if that's really a problem — should focus on motorists, not cyclists

Today, Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman will introduce a motion to remove part of the Central Parkway Bikeway, citing safety concerns caused by confusion about parking along the route.

But removing the lane doesn’t make any fiscal or safety sense.

The city constructed those bike lanes mostly with a $500,000 federal grant. Removing them would cost money, money that city taxpayers would have to pay. There’s no federal grant for reversing things you did with another federal grant. Making taxpayers cough up money to remove safety infrastructure designed to protect cyclists from drivers because drivers aren’t paying attention to signage seems perverse to me.

But there are more profound reasons to oppose removal of the lane, including the fact that doing so shifts responsibility for safety further away from drivers and onto cyclists.

We hear fiscal conservatives like Smitherman telling folks they should live within their means because of the sacred conservative principle of personal responsibility. I don’t own a car, because I take my fiscal responsibility seriously and I’m not exactly swimming in cash. Because I don’t want to spend the money it takes to purchase and maintain a reliable car and I’m trying to be conservative about my debt load, I walk or take a bus when I can afford to be leisurely. But when I need to get somewhere quickly, I absolutely rely on a bicycle.

I’m not the only one, and statistics show plenty of bike riders are even more dependent on their two-wheeled modes of transportation than I am. Those stats show that most bikers aren’t fixed-gear hipster dorks or spandex-clad weekend cyclists. They’re low-income folks riding to work, to family or wherever else they need to go, exercising that good old American personal responsibility.

Across the country, according to Census data, about half of the people who commute to work by bike make below $25,000 a year. Now, that category (bizarrely) also includes motorcycle riders and those who rely on taxis, but it’s clear bicycles are the most cost-effective (and probably most widespread) of those options.

I ride alongside folks in this situation every time I go anywhere on a bike, but to most people — including some city officials, it seems — they’re invisible.

Despite advice from our honorable mayor, city laws don't allow the non-car owning public to ride bikes on sidewalks, and with good reason. Most pedestrian walkways are too narrow, and having a person on a metal object going up to 30 miles an hour isn’t a good mix with pedestrians.

So I, and other bikers, stay off the sidewalks because personal responsibility. That means I need bike lanes. So do other bike commuters.

For me, and for other cyclists, it’s personal, and it's a matter of life and limb.

I was forced off the road on Highland Avenue last summer by a driver who pulled right up behind me honking, then pulled up to my left and edged me off the road. I wrecked. It was scary as shit. I won’t show you a picture of the crazy, purple-brown bruise that adorned most of my right leg because that would involve me posting a picture of myself without pants on, but wanna see the big hole in my hand I got because some road-raging jerk wanted to make a point? It's gross!

Other cyclists, including Michael Prater, who was struck by a motorist and killed in Anderson Township, have faced far worse fates at the hands of irresponsible drivers. There are more stories, with varying degrees of severity, about cyclists injured by reckless motorists. You'd be hard-pressed to find the opposite.

Someone in those scenarios lacked some personal responsibility, and it wasn’t the people on bikes.

If cars are posing a safety issue on Central Parkway due to the fact that parking spaces have been moved out to the right lanes of the road, as Smitherman and others have suggested, perhaps the city should work on making sure drivers take some personal responsibility and watch out for other parked cars. Increased enforcement of traffic laws would be a good start.

If a driver is too preoccupied or confused to see a parked car and the accompanying signs warning them about those parked cars, how likely are they going to be to see us riding (legally) in the right lane? Further, if someone is too preoccupied to see an enormous metal vehicle ahead of them, should they be operating a motor vehicle at all?

We shouldn’t waste taxpayer dollars removing beneficial infrastructure to subsidize drivers’ lack of personal responsibility while making things less safe for folks who are exercising their own responsibility by commuting to work by bicycle on the street.

There are reams of statistics showing that bike lanes make streets safer and communities more economically viable. In-depth studies show that cyclists spend as much or more than drivers do in the communities they pass through and that bike lanes increase the number of cyclists passing through communities.

And the number of cyclists commuting to work is growing fast in Cincinnati. We’re still not a huge biking city, but we moved from 46th out of 70 major cities in 2013 when it comes to the proportion of cyclists riding to work to 39th in 2014 — a huge jump. Plus, the city’s fast-growing bike-share program, RedBike, means more newby cyclists are on the streets than ever before. All the more reason to increase cycling safety on our streets.

All the data shows bike lanes increase safety, economic activity and attractiveness to potential residents. What do bike lane opponents have? A few alarmist news stories like this one — which cites 33 accidents since the lane was completed but which provides no baseline number from before the lane was completed for comparison — and a letter from one community member who cites an accident that happened before the lanes were even put in.

Meanwhile, community councils — those bodies closest to, uh, the community — along the bike route aren’t asking city officials to remove the lanes. They’re clamoring for an expansion, citing studies that show increased economic activity along bike lane routes.

There are ways to do this without burdening the city’s rank-and-file taxpayers. If the city could negotiate just a little harder with big developers on a few deals in white-hot Over-the-Rhine, the money it usually gives out in rich tax abatements could instead over time be plowed into bike infrastructure that would probably attract tenants for those new apartments or customers to that new retail space anyway. Instead of big tax breaks, maybe the city could create tax increment financing districts in quickly redeveloping neighborhoods like OTR where the TIF funds are used to improve nearby bicycle infrastructure.

Other cities in Ohio and beyond, including Chicago, use TIF funds for projects with bike lanes, after all. Just spitballing here.

So let’s stop with this anti-bike-lane political nonsense and learn from other cities that have successfully implemented a comprehensive system for bike commuters. Requiring a little more personal responsibility on drivers’ part is a small price to pay when lives are at stake.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 02.24.2016 68 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
rob portman

Morning News and Stuff

Smitherman wants to remove portion of Central Parkway bike lane; Covington City Commission approves art installations; Strickland, Portman neck and neck in U.S. Senate race

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman is set to introduce a motion in today’s Council meeting asking that a portion of the Central Parkway Bikeway be removed. The stretch of bike lane, which separates cyclists from the road with vertical plastic barriers, was constructed in 2014. Cyclists cheered the lanes, but a few business owners in the neighborhood groused about parking concerns. No parking spots were taken by the lanes, but cars along some stretches now have to park in the right lane of Central Parkway instead of on the curb. That’s caused safety concerns, which Smitherman cities in his call to remove the lane from the 1600 to the 2000 block of Central Parkway — about half a mile between Liberty Street north to where Central Avenue intersects Central Parkway. Some community councils, however, have expressed support for the lanes and would even like to see them expanded.

• Let’s keep talking about places for people to park their big metal death boxes, shall we? Nah, just kidding, cars are cool. But it’s also pretty cool that the Covington City Commission voted yesterday to temporarily give up five parking spots for a six-month art installation there. The art in those so-called parklets will range from stationary bikes that power a movie projector to an enormous xylophone, all designed to bring new activity and vibrancy to Covington’s Madison Avenue. It was a controversial decision, with some business leaders along the busy main street expressing concern about the lost parking, but city leaders say they hope to increase pedestrian traffic and business near the installations. The city also created four new spaces along Madison for temporary parking while the parklets are up.

• Guess who is stumping for the Trump in Northern Kentucky? One hint: He’s an attorney who has been suspended from practicing law by the Kentucky Supreme Court last year, and he shares a name with some prominent Hamilton County politicians. You got it. Eric Deters is running reality TV star Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in Kentucky’s Fourth Congressional District, which includes Boone, Campbell and 16 other counties in the state. The state’s Supreme Court suspended Deters last May for ethical violations, though Deters is currently fighting for reinstatement. He’s fought legal battles over previous suspensions as well. Trump’s campaign continues to steamroll other GOP primary contenders. He easily won Nevada’s caucuses, sending political commentators into new levels of dismay and panic.

Ohio’s U.S. Senate race is neck and neck between incumbent Republican Rob Portman and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. A new poll by Quinnipiac University released today shows the two virtually tied in the pivotal race, which is part of a larger wrangle for control of the Senate between Democrats and Republicans. Forty-four percent of those polled said Strickland had their vote, while 42 percent said Portman was their man. That’s not great news for Portman, who should be ahead by this point as the incumbent. Meanwhile, Strickland’s Democratic primary opponent, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, trails far behind the two main contenders, mainly due to lack of name recognition. The three campaigns have spent more than $2 million on the race thus far.

• Let’s keep talking about polls, shall we? Particularly, let’s chat about that same Quinnipiac poll, which also shows Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, besting either of the Democrats’ potential nominees here. Fifty-four percent of voters in that poll said they would choose Kasich, while 37 percent said they would choose former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton if she got the nod. Thirty-five percent said they would choose Bernie Sanders if he were nominated. That’s better than any other GOP candidate in the field.

Marco Rubio came in second, more narrowly besting Clinton and Sanders. Donald Trump came in third, basically tying Clinton and Sanders. That last bit is illustrative of the differences between highly charged GOP primary voters and the general electorate. A poll we talked about yesterday had Trump walloping Kasich among GOP primary voters here. Kasich’s campaign has of course latched onto the results as he clings onto hope that the race will turn for him. Kasich took a beating in the South Carolina primary and the Nevada Caucuses, but his campaign staff is citing the poll as a reminder that, historically, the route to Republican victory in the general election goes through the heart of it all.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 02.23.2016 69 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_protester_7-9 copy

Morning News and Stuff

City, county to spar over MSD in court; Ohio lawmakers may once again delay charter school oversight; Kasich's kitchen comment

Hello all. Here’s what’s going on around Cincy and beyond today.

The sewer drama continues. Hamilton County yesterday asked a federal court to intervene in recent disputes between the county and the city of Cincinnati over the Metropolitan Sewer District. County commissioners cite a 2014 court order which they say requires the city to follow the county’s directives when it comes to MSD. The county is also asking that the U.S. District Court weigh in on the upcoming expiration of a 1968 agreement casting the county as the owner of MSD and the city as its chief operator. Republican County Commissioner Chris Monzel said the city has shown “flagrant” disregard for its duties in running MSD.

“We respectfully ask the court to enforce its previous order and allow Hamilton County to bring accountability and transparency which are so badly needed in MSD operations,” he said in a statement.

The suit is the latest bit of drama for the sewer district following revelations that millions in city contracts paid out through the agency were awarded without a competitive bidding process under former MSD director Tony Parrott. Under a since-changed city policy, Parrott had near total control over the district’s spending.

Most of the problematic expenditures involved a $3.2 billion, federal court-ordered renovation of MSD infrastructure. Parrott left MSD last summer. City officials say policy has changed since that time and are calling for a complete audit of MSD. Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost is also launching a large-scale investigation into the sewer district.

• Meanwhile, another set of allegations regarding corruption and mismanagement is unfolding here in Cincinnati, this one around the city’s Veterans Administration hospital. Last week we told you about those allegations made by a number of whistleblowers in the hospital against its leadership, which was first reported by WCPO. Now, the big national bosses at the VA say an intensive investigation is underway into issues around understaffing, poor service to veterans as well as issues around Cincinnati VA leadership salaries and allegations that the hospital’s head unlawfully prescribed pain medication to a superior’s wife. As I type, VA head Bob McDonald, a former Procter & Gamble exec, is testifying before the Senate VA oversight committee, where senators like Ohio’s Sherrod Brown have indicated they’ll ask tough questions about what’s going on in Cincinnati.

• It’s been a rough year for Ohio’s $1 billion charter school system. You can read all about why in this week’s feature story, which comes out tomorrow. In the meantime, there’s this: Ohio lawmakers are considering delaying yet again a rating system for the state’s charter school sponsoring organizations. The legislature first voted in 2012 to give those organizations, which oversee the publicly funded but privately operated schools, grades based on schools’ performance. But those ratings have been delayed after data rigging was discovered, skewing the ratings. Now, it could be another two years before those ratings go live. Those ratings are part of a three-year process that could shut down low-performing charter schools whose sponsoring organizations don’t measure up. The rating scale was a big part of the Kasich administration’s pitch to the U.S. Department of Education, which awarded Ohio $71 million last year before catching wind of the data rigging scandal. That grant is now delayed and could be in jeopardy of being revoked if Ohio pushes back its oversight system again.

• Speaking of Kasich, he’s having one hell of a terrible week. Part of that is fellow Republican presidential primary contender Donald Trump’s fault. The real estate mogul is now polling ahead of Kasich in Ohio, even though Kasich is like, the governor here. But Kasich isn’t helping himself. A recent clip of him saying that women “left the kitchen” in the 1970s to help put him in office has been racing around the internet, causing much-deserved scorn. Really, man?

• And speaking of Kasich and women… well, it’s just getting worse and worse so let’s stop being cute and just come out with it. Kasich Sunday signed a bill that strips Ohio Planned Parenthood of all state and some federal funding totaling more than $1 million a year. That bill arose after controversy over a now-debunked video purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue was released by an anti-abortion group. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine investigated Ohio Planned Parenthood following that video. He discovered no fetal tissue sales, though he did allege that Planned Parenthood was contracting tissue disposal to a company that was dumping babies in landfills in Kentucky. Then Kentucky officials contested that claim and it was revealed that Ohio contracts with the same company. Meanwhile, none of the funds lawmakers have voted to strip from Planned Parenthood Ohio go toward abortions. Instead they’re used for things like cancer screenings and sexual health education. What a world, what a world.

I’m out. Twitter. E-mail. Etc.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 02.22.2016 70 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Anonymous releases personal information of Cincinnati police officers; officials lower standards to pass the GED; Cincinnati's veterans express frustration with new VA clinic program

Good morning, Cincinnati! Hope you enjoyed the warm weather this weekend! Here are your morning headlines. 

The hacking group Anonymous says it is targeting the Cincinnati Police Department. In a video announcement released Sunday, the group claimed it will release the personal information of 52 CPD employees, including Police Chief Eliot Isaac. The group said the information dump is in response to the shooting of Paul Gaston, who was killed by CPD officers on Feb. 17 while reaching for a pellet gun in his waistband. CPD released two videos of the incident taken by witnesses the following day. Information released by Anonymous includes the names, ages, street addresses, email addresses and social media account information of two officers seen in the videos. Cincinnati Police Lt. Steve Saunders said the department is investigating the situation to see if there was any breach of security in CPD's system.  

• Hundreds showed up in front of Cincinnati's City Hall on Saturday to march in support of Democratic presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders. The rally was organized by local groups supporting the Vermont Senator's bid for the White House. Sanders has been gaining on opponent Hillary Clinton's lead for the Democratic nomination. Later in the day, however, Sanders lost in the Nevada Democratic caucus to Clinton.  

• Officials have lowered the standards required to pass the GED, the high school diploma equivalency exam. Both states lowered the number of pointed required to pass the GED after GED testing officials recommended it on Jan. 26. CityBeat reported last year on the test's major overhaul that caused the passing rate to plummet by 90 percent from 2013 to 2014. 

• A national $10 billion reform program implemented by Cincinnati's Veteran Affairs Medical Clinic has left many veterans claiming they're struggling with bureaucracy and a reduction in services. The congressionally mandated Veterans Choice Program is supposed to aid accessibility issues some veterans have experienced with their local VA clinics by allowing them to choose their own doctors if the wait time is more than 30 days or they live more than 40 miles away from the clinic. But a WCPO investigation found that some are claiming the Cincinnati VA has cut some medical services because of the new program, forcing veterans to use the choice program — all to make the clinic's budget look better. 

• Gov. John Kasich's second place victory in the New Hampshire primary was short lived. The Republican presidential primary candidate finished fifth Saturday in South Carolina's GOP primary with just 7.6 percent of the vote. GOP frontrunner Donald Trump once again was victorious. Kasich, unlike Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the race following the primary, is still fighting hard for the nomination. He says he's planning on campaigning hard in Midwestern states like Michigan, which will hold its primary on March 8, and here in Ohio, where the primary will be on March 15.
 
 
by Natalie Krebs, Nick Swartsell 02.20.2016 71 days ago
Posted In: News at 04:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Hundreds Turn Out for Sanders Rally Downtown

Contender in Democratic presidential primary draws big crowds angry at political system

A crowd of hundreds gathered at Cincinnati City Hall today to show support for Democratic presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders.

The rally, organized by local supporters, featured speeches from several labor leaders, activists and political candidates followed by a brief march through downtown.

"The political revolution is coming to Cincinnati now,” said Jordan Angelo Opst, a University of Cincinnati student and organizer with the group Cincinnati for Bernie Sanders, which helped set up the rally. “We're ready to stand up in unity against injustice, unfairness and corruption. You'll notice that we've got white people. We've got black people. We have brown people. We have Christians. We have atheists. We have Muslims.”

Sadie Hughes, registered nurse and local director of National Nurses United, told the crowd the group was endorsing Sanders “because he cares for the same things we care about."

"He is leading the fight for Medicare for all,” she said. “Too many Americans, even with the Affordable Care Act, remain priced out of access to necessary health care. Too many of our seniors are still working at McDonalds and Wendy's and places like that. Bernie believes that everyone should be able to earn a living wage."

Sanders, currently a U.S. Senator for Vermont, identifies as a democratic socialist and was, until his primary campaign, an independent who caucused with Democrats. His candidacy began as a long shot against Democratic favorite and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, mostly due to the perceived baggage of his self-professed socialism and his low name recognition outside his home state.

Over the past few months, however, Sanders’ growing national popularity has many political pundits taking him more seriously as primary voters expressing fatigue over an increasingly divided political system line up to support him. He came in a close second behind Clinton in the Iowa caucus earlier this month and outright beat her in the New Hampshire primary by a large margin.

As he's run, Sanders has shifted policy debates with Clinton to the left. In recent debates, the two largely agree on broad-based policy ideas, instead debating on the feasibility of their respective progressive plans. Clinton has hit Sanders on statements from liberal (often Democratic Party-affiliated) economists saying that his proposals for a single-payer health care system don't add up, and by bringing up his past record voting against certain gun control measures, a big issue for many Democrats. Other progressives, though, have leaped to Sanders' defense. The Vermont Senator, meanwhile, has hit Clinton for the large financial institutions that have given her campaign and PACs millions, and from which she has taken large, six-figure speaking fees.

Now, his supporters are looking to South Carolina and Nevada, the next two states to weigh in on the primary race. Democrats caucus today in Nevada, where Sanders has been chipping away at a large Clinton lead. The most recent polls out of South Carolina, where Democrats will have primary voting next week, show Clinton with a commanding 18-point lead, however.

Here in Cincinnati, things are heating up ahead of Ohio’s March 15 primary. Last week, former president Bill Clinton spoke at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center to a capacity crowd of 200. There, he touted his wife’s ability to be “a change maker.”

But some Cincinnatians see Sanders as a better fit for that role.

Some attendees at today’s rally expressed frustration with the current political system and say they see Sanders, with his calls for campaign finance and financial industry reform, as a catalyst for bigger changes.

“It’s not just Democrats, it’s not just Republicans. It’s institutional politics on both sides,” said rally-goer Jim Applebee, who lives in the Cincinnati area. But electing Sanders could be a tipping point, he says. “I don’t think he can change things, but we can. We need a leader for that movement. It can’t be one person. But it can happen. And if it doesn’t, we see the trend that we’re on.”

Some cited Sanders’ populist proposals around cost-free college education, expanding Medicare to the entire U.S. population, and other issues as the way to systemic change, and as signs of his principles.

“He has a concise platform about what he believes in, and he comes across as the most honest and ethical candidate,” Lou Ebstein of Cincinnati said. “My kids both have college loans, and they’re paying them back, and it’s an increasing burden. We’re not going to get anywhere if that continues to be the case for people.

Ebstein didn’t have negative words about Sanders’ primary opponent Hillary Clinton, but said he saw Sanders as a candidate more likely to proactively push progress beyond the Obama era.

“There are so many things that need to get done, and we need to go about them in a different way. Sanders really put a big challenge out there. He came out of nowhere, and now we’re going to see what Nevada does.”

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 02.19.2016 73 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
sheriff

Morning News and Stuff

Sheriff body cameras delayed; Bevin signs anti-toll bill; will Scalia replacement dustup affect Ohio's U.S. Senate race?

Hey all. Here’s the news today.

A deal to equip Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputies with body cameras will be delayed, Sheriff Jim Neil announced yesterday. Hamilton County commissioners approved a deal between the Sheriff’s office and Taser, International for $1.3 million over five years, which would have provided body cameras as well as new Tasers for the department. However, contracts that big must be opened up to public bidding, so the county’s deal with Taser is on hold until other bids are solicited. The department has been looking into body cameras at a time when many law enforcement agencies across the country, including the Cincinnati Police Department, have taken steps to adopt the technology following controversial police shootings of civilians.

• In case you missed our update yesterday, Cincinnati police released the name of the man shot by officers in Cheviot.  Officers Eric Kohler, Zachary Sterbling and Scott McManis of the Cincinnati Police Department shot Paul Gaston, 37, Wednesday, after they say he pulled a gun. Those officers fired a total of nine shots at Gaston, who they say was pulling what turned out to be a realistic-looking Airsoft bb gun from his waistband.

Video of the incident taken by bystanders shows Gaston initially complying with orders to get on his knees. The video, taken from behind, shows Gaston make a motion toward his mid-section with his right arm, but does not show a gun. He was originally reported waiving a gun in Westwood in a 911 call by his girlfriend, who was not at the scene, but who says she was receiving texts from her sister, who was. Police followed several other calls to find Gaston after he wrecked his truck and walked to neighboring Cheviot. Gatson was the second person shot by CPD this year. The first, Robert Tenbrick, was also shot while he had a toy gun.

City officials, including Mayor John Cranley, said they’re standing behind the officers, who have been placed on procedural administrative leave as the shooting is investigated. Sterbling and Kohler have been flagged for receiving multiple complaints through the Citizen’s Complaint Authority in the past, but officials say they acted appropriately Wednesday.

• This is kind of lame. MadTree will be temporarily pulling production of my favorite of theirs, Gnarly Brown, due to conflicts with a California wine maker over the use of the word “gnarly.” Delicato Vineyard has filed a complaint with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over MadTree’s use of the word, which the vineyard uses in its Gnarly Head wine. While this seems a little ridiculous on it face — it’s beer vs. wine, after all, and it’s not even the same exact phrase — far be it from me to contest California’s ownership of the word “gnarly.” MadTree will retool the beer’s branding slightly and begin production again.

• Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has signaled he’ll sign a controversial bill passed by the state’s legislature outlawing tolls as a way to fund the looming $2.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge project. Tolls have been forwarded as one possible way to fund the prohibitively high cost of replacing the bridge, which is functionally obsolete but structurally sound for now. The span, which carries I-75 across the Ohio River, is on one of the busiest shipping routes in the country. The bill stipulates that tolling cannot be part of any project connecting Kentucky to Ohio without the approval of the state’s legislature, which will not approve the funding method as a way to pay for the bridge.

• Will the fight over a replacement for late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia affect Ohio’s U.S. Senate race? It could. Incumbent Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, has sided with other conservative senators who have signaled they will refuse to have confirmation hearings for President Barack Obama’s replacement nominations. They argue that Obama should wait until after the next election to let voters have a say on the pivotal placement. Currently, the court is divided evenly between four liberal and four conservative judges. Scalia was ultra-conservative, and Republicans would like nothing more than to replace him with someone ideologically similar. Portman has sided with most, but not all, Republicans in the chamber signaling they won’t give any confirmation hearings.

The question is, will that help or hurt him in a close race with Democrats, who look somewhat likely to nominate former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in the March 15 primary? Ohio is a purple state, but Portman could rally his staunchly conservative base with the highly partisan move. On the other hand, it may not endear him to moderates and fence-sitters, who Strickland looks able to scoop up in November.

Portman’s taken some heat for the move from the Toledo Blade, among other editorial boards. While Democrats in the Senate, including Obama during his term, have opposed Republican presidents’ judicial nominees, they have done so through more traditional means — by voting no, by filibustering to avoid procedural votes on cloture, or closing debate on a nominee so a final vote can be taken during a confirmation hearing. Republicans are proposing something different and unprecedented: refusing to hold a hearing at all.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 02.18.2016 74 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
viaductsmall

Morning News and Stuff

Police-involved shooting in Cheviot; will Ziegler park host a

Hey hey Cincy. Here’s what’s happening today.

Cincinnati Police officers shot and killed a man in Cheviot yesterday after they say he pulled a gun from his waistband. Officers say they were responding to calls about a man intoxicated and waiving a gun in neighboring Westwood when an accident happened a few blocks away. They determined the driver in that accident was the same person from the initial call and followed him, ordering him to stop. He initially complied, according to officers, but then pulled a gun, at which time officers opened fire. Police have not released the person’s name, but say he is a 36-year-old black male. No dash cam or other footage of the incident, if it exists, has been released yet, but police officials say they will release more information about the shooting today. A witness named Clites Holloway saw the shooting from a nearby van and told reporters, “I barely seen him move his body, and as soon as I seen that, first cop took the shot.” All involved officers are on a seven-day paid leave of absence as the shooting is investigated.

UPDATE: Police say 37-year-old Paul Gaston pulled an Air Soft toy pistol from his waistband while he was on his knees in the street complying with officers. A video of the incident taken by a member of the public doesn't show Gaston with a gun, though he does reach briefly for his waist area.

• Improper prescriptions, dirty surgical implements and receiving extra money as a head surgeon without actually performing surgeries are accusations being leveled at the head of Cincinnati’s Veterans Administration Hospital Dr. Barbara Temeck, who is caught up in a federal investigation of the VA branch. A WCPO investigation alleges Temeck takes in more than $100,000 extra a year for a surgical role she doesn’t perform, that she prescribed prescription pain medicine to her boss’ wife, seemingly without the necessary licenses, and that she has looked the other way at dirty instruments, staffing shortages and other problems at Cincinnati’s VA hospital.

Detractors interviewed by the news organization say Temeck’s tenure has resulted in a quantifiable drop in the quality of care at the hospital. The investigation features interviews with doctors and patients, as well as public records supporting some of its findings. Supporters within the VA point out the hospital routinely gets four- and five-star reviews from the administration and that Temeck has done a good job at her post. They also say that the report doesn’t include information about whether or not the hospital has seen budget cuts from the federal government and what role those cuts may have played in quality of care.

• Cincinnati streetcar riders won’t be able to buy a specific, month-long unlimited use pass like the kind you can get for METRO buses, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority says. Such a pass would be very similar to the $70 METRO passes, SORTA says, and could run afoul of federal regulations about segregating ridership. Some council members have said that potential riders may not want to ride the bus, but will want to ride the streetcar, and that SORTA should look into a separate pass for them. Riders will be able to buy unlimited-use daily passes for the streetcar at $2, however, and can also use their monthly METRO passes on the cars.

• Cincinnati officials, including Mayor John Cranley and representatives from 3CDC yesterday held a groundbreaking event for upcoming renovations to Ziegler Park, which sits on Sycamore Street at the border of Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton. Those renovations will include a new pool and a 400-car underground parking lot. The renovation plan calls for at least $20 million in public money from state New Markets Tax Credits and city parks and recreation bonds. 3CDC says it still needs $12 million to finish the project and will continue fundraising from public and private sources to fill in that gap. The project comes even as the Cincinnati Parks Board has said it is running low on funds to complete needed maintenance on parks across the city, though much of the money for Ziegler is coming from other sources. Cincinnati City Council recently approved giving the parks and recreation bonds to 3CDC.

Neighborhood residents this summer took part in a three-session planning effort to garner feedback about the park. Among concerns expressed by residents, including advocates for low-income tenants in the neighborhood worried about the area’s ongoing gentrification, were preserving the park’s basketball courts and the possibility that Ziegler could become a busy “destination” park like Washington Park. Planners assured community members that those wishes would be honored. Cranley suggested hosting “a mini-LumenoCity here sometime soon” in his remarks, though park planners say the park will remain passive, or without major programming. Let's see what happens there.

• Finally, the question continues: Who owns the Western Hills Viaduct, and who will pay to repair or replace it? Right now, Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials are basically doing this about the question: ¯_(ツ)_/¯

The mile-long bridge, built by the city in 1932, needs to be replaced or seriously repaired in the next decade or so, and officials are finally getting serious about figuring that whole thing out. Sort of. The county and city are still fighting over who has ownership over the bridge and will foot the expected $80 million share of the $280 million replacement project. That conversation would be a lot easier if we as a country, you know, prioritized public infrastructure funding at the state and federal levels, but, ya know, times were different in the 1930s and we were just swimming in cash back then… oh wait. Anyway, now I’m editorializing. Maybe we can just build a giant zipline when the thing finally collapses?

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 02.17.2016 75 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
tuckers1

Morning News and Stuff

Tucker's set to reopen this summer; early voting now open in Hamilton County; UC contemplates moving some programs downtown

Tucker's Restaurant in Over-the-Rhine is set to reopen on July 25 — exactly one year after a kitchen fire badly damaged the iconic restaurant. The diner first opened its doors in 1946 and has been a staple in the neighborhood for decades. Community volunteers are hosting a brunch fundraiser for the reopening at St. Francis Seraph School in OTR this Sunday. 

• Early voting is now open for Ohio's primary on March 15. Voters can now head down to Hamilton County Board of Elections to vote, which mght be a good idea to avoid long lines or obnoxious political junkies at the polls. The Board of Elections website also lets you look up whether you're actually registered to vote and where you can go to vote, if you feel like doing so on the actual day.

• The University of Cincinnati is thinking about expanding its campus into downtown. UC President Santa Ono said the university is considering moving its law, business and music programs to a new downtown campus in order to connect better with the city. The university has long discussed moving its law school in particular. Ono says the current building on the corner of Clifton Avenue and Calhoun Street that houses the school is in need of renovations. UC officials are still considering possibilities, so there's no solid word yet on whether any programs will actually move.

• The recent spike in heroin use reported in the greater Cincinnati area has caused another outbreak: Hepatitis C. The number of infections jumped in 2015 with more than 1,000 new reported cases, The Enquirer reports, which public health officials say goes hand-in-hand with injection drugs like heroin. About 75 percent of Hepatitis C cases result in severe liver problems. Public health officials are pushing needle exchange programs to help curb the rate of infection, and on Monday the Northern Kentucky Health Department got approval to develop its own exchange program.

• Ohio has created a $20 million program to help aid the clean up of abandoned gas stations. The Ohio Development Services Agency is in charge of handing out the grant money over the next two years to city land banks. The state is currently working on a website for applicants to apply online set to launch in March. Ohio Development Services Agency Director David Goodman said the idea for the program struck him when he noticed the number of small Ohio towns with an abandoned gas station in the middle. These properties can also have issues with oil and gas leaks from leftover underground tanks.

• Apple CEO Tim Cook has vowed to fight against a court order from a federal court issued Tuesday that would require the company to build software allowing law enforcement to bypass security functions on its products. Law enforcement officials sought the order to gain access to the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the attackers in the December shooting at an office building in San Bernardino, Calif., that left 14 dead. Apple has long resisted building "back door" access software, saying if such technology exists it could further compromise the security of its users by making it easier for hackers to bypass security features. Cook called the court order "chilling" and claimed the government is basically asking the company for build a master key for all iPhones in order to unlock one.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 02.16.2016 76 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
tedstrickland

Morning News and Stuff

UCPD reforms will take time, activists say; historic Rabbit Hash general store could be back soon; Strickland blasts Sen. Portman for promise to block Obama SCOTUS nominee

Good morning all. Hope you enjoyed your weekend and got an extra day off, either thanks to past presidents or present precipitation. I went sledding in memory of Abraham Lincoln on my President’s Day holiday.

Anyway, here’s the news today.

Speaking of past presidents: Former commander in chief Bill Clinton came to Clifton Friday to campaign for his wife, former senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s visit comes about a month before Ohio’s March 15 primary, where Hillary is facing off against U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. You can read more about Bill’s pitch to Cincinnati voters, and how they responded, in our coverage here.

• How are policing reforms at University of Cincinnati coming along? So far, community members and police reform advocates are skeptical. A town hall discussion Monday night with UC’s police force and an outside organization contracted to help with the reforms, called Exiger, revealed that distrust in the department is still high after the July 19 shooting death of unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose by then-UC police officer Ray Tensing. The university will pay Exiger $400,000 to complete a review of the force. The company will issue its report in June, but activists say that shouldn’t be the end of the conversation and that rebuilding trust will take years.

• So, the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium just got a big renovation. It cost $86 million. Now, UC is trying hard to get into the Big 12 Conference, which may or may not be looking for new members. UC President Santa Ono is confident the school is an attractive choice for the conference, though, and if it does tap UC, that means… spending millions again to expand Nippert’s capacity by 10,000 to 15,000 seats. But, hey, it’s not like the university already subsidizes its athletic program by $27 million or anything. Wait, it does? Oh. Ono says Big 12 membership would make the school’s athletic programs more profitable and could reduce those subsidies. But first, UC has to get into the conference and drop some serious dime on getting its stadium up to size.

• Here’s something terrible: The general store in Rabbit Hash, Kentucky has burned down. The structure, built in 1831, was a landmark in the small town that once elected a dog for a mayor. It carried food, beverages and gifts and also hosted both live music and the unquantifiable spirit of that funky town. I remember some great bike trips to Rabbit Hash. Bummer. Plans to rebuild are in the works, but the historic shack was in some ways irreplaceable.  The owners say they’ll be hosting music in a neighboring barn until then.

• I’ve always had a fantasy that someday I’ll have a birthday party at Union Terminal where guests can play old-school Nintendo on the enormous domed Omnimax screen. That will probably never happen, but assuming it’s possible, I’ll still have to wait a while. Soon, the Omnimax will close for two years as part of the terminal’s large-scale, $200-million-plus renovation process. The last film to screen there before that process starts, National Parks Adventure, just opened and will run until the theater shuts down this summer. I haven’t been since I was a kid so I’m probably going to check it out even though they won’t let me play Tetris on that dome.

• Former Ohio governor and U.S. Senate hopeful Ted Strickland yesterday held a news conference outside the Hamilton County Courthouse to blast incumbent Sen. Rob Portman over the senator’s refusal to consider a new Supreme Court justice appointed by President Barack Obama. That statement came following the death of ardent conservative Justice Antonin Scalia Saturday. Senate confirmation is a vital step in the process of naming a new justice, and the court will have only eight justices until that happens. Immediately following Scalia’s death, many Republican senators, including Portman, said they would not consider an Obama appointee and called on the president to wait until after the 2016 election so the next president could make the appointment. That’s not really how it works, but I guess they figure it’s worth a shot.

That’s it for me. Tweet or email your news tips or improbable birthday party suggestions.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 02.12.2016 79 days ago
Posted In: News at 05:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
billclinton02

Bill Clinton Calls on Cincinnati to Support Hillary

Former president speaks in Clifton in support of his wife's presidential run

Former President Bill Clinton urged a group of more than 200 people in Clifton today to support his wife and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.

Clinton called his wife a “changemaker” who held the expertise and experience to become the next president.

Much of his speech touched on the need to grow the country’s economy in the aftermath of the financial crisis through lowering the country’s high student loan debt and increasing the number of jobs.

“We suffered a terrible wound in that financial mess,” Clinton said.

Clinton also addressed the sixth Democratic debate that took place last night between Clinton and her competitor for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, without ever mentioning Sanders’ name. He recapped Hillary’s points from the debate on refinancing student loans and avoiding another financial crisis.

“I love the closing of the debate last night when Hillary said, ‘Look I agree we’ve got to do something to make sure the economy doesn’t crash again. You have your solution. I have mine. Most experts say my plan is stronger, and it’s more likely to prevent the financial crisis,’ ” he said.

Bill Clinton has been touring the country in support of his wife’s bid for the Democratic nomination in the wake of disappointing outcomes for Hillary in the last two weeks. She came in neck and neck with Sanders in the Iowa caucus on Feb. 1 and lost significantly in New Hampshire Democratic primary on  Feb. 9.

At the rally, the former president expressed disappointment at the current Supreme Court for upholding the Voting Right Act and the “Citizens United" decision, which allows unlimited spending on political campaigns by corporations and unions.

He emphasized how such issues could change with the next president, as he or she will likely appoint two Supreme Court judges.

“She’ll give you judges who will stick up for your rights,” he said.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and former mayor Mark Mallory introduced Clinton. Vice mayor David Mann and council members Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson were also at the event.

Christie Malaer of Green Hills says she attended the rally because she believes Hillary, along with her husband Bill, will make a good team together again in the White House.

“Hillary and Bill have stuck together through everything they’ve been through,” Malaer said. “That says a lot.”

 
 

 

 

by Nick Swartsell 05.02.2016 5 hours ago
Posted In: News at 09:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

Poll: Ohioans want Kasich to drop prez bid; lawmakers mull eliminating most mandatory minimums for drug sentences; Bevin vetoes money for NKY river trail

Good morning all. Did you run the pig this weekend? I thought about it. For a few seconds. That should count for something, right? No? OK. Let’s talk news then. There’s a bunch of politics transpiring. Here it is:

A new poll says that only 38 percent of Ohioans want Ohio Gov. John Kasich to stay in the GOP presidential primary, in contrast to the 49 percent who want him out. But there’s an even more striking number in the Public Policy Polling survey: Fifty-eight percent of GOP voters want Kasich to bail on the race, compared to just 33 percent who think he should stay in.

• Is this one reason why taxpayers are tired of Kasich’s run? The Columbus Dispatch reports that his presidential campaign is costing taxpayers plenty when it comes to his security detail. The nine state troopers assigned to protect Kasich at all times racked up 1,800 hours in overtime as of April 16, earning an extra $82,400 in public money.

• One more Kasich tidbit: Our Big Queso is working hard in Indiana to woo voters… but not the voters you’re thinking of. Kasich is mostly ignoring the state’s primary voters and taking his case directly to the state’s GOP delegates, who will decide the presidential nominee in case of a contested convention. After the first round of voting at such a convention, those delegates will become “unbound,” meaning they no longer have to vote for the candidate voters in their state selected.

• Cincinnati restaurant mogul Jeff Ruby has rescinded a $25,000 reward offer in relation to the recent massacre of eight people in Pike County. The execution-style killings of the Rhodan family have drawn national attention and led to speculation that a Mexican drug cartel might be responsible for the carnage after marijuana growing operations were found on the Rhodan’s properties. Ruby has nodded to that speculation as a reason he’s pulling his reward.

• A task force put together by Ohio lawmakers has recommended eliminating mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws in the state. A working group that is part of the Criminal Recodification Committee, which is charged with reforming the state’s drug laws, says that the minimums should go away and that new sentencing standards should be put in place. That could reduce Ohio’s prison population, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction says.

• Controversy in Kentucky, part 1: Comments Kenton County District Judge Ann Ruttle’s made while finding former Xavier women’s basketball coach Bryce McKey not guilty of sexual abuse have caused some consternation and concern. Ruttles said that the plaintiff in the case, who alleges McKey gave her alcohol when she was underage and touched her inappropriately, did not do enough to stop him and that her behavior was “almost... an invitation.” Advocates for sexual assault survivors have said that amounts to victim-blaming.  

• Controversy in Kentucky, part 2: Governor Matt Bevin late last week vetoed more than $300,000 in the Kentucky budget meant to help develop an 11-mile trail along the Northern Kentucky riverfront called Riverfront Commons. That will slow, but not stop, the project, which already has funds to establish portions of the trail in Dayton, Ludlow and Covington. Bevin cited “significant fiscal constraints” in the state for his decision. Trail boosters call the cut “disappointing.”

• Finally, this really is more the music section’s purview, but I’m going to mention it. Radiohead has erased nearly its entire web presence — tweets, Facebook, website, everything. Fans of the band and some music critics have speculated this is a sign of a new album on the way — the band is known for its innovative business and marketing (well, really, anti-marketing) approaches. But I have a more precise theory: Yorke and Co. are looking to capitalize on the increasingly prevalent nostalgia for the 1990s, a time blissfully before Twitter, Facebook, immersive website experiences, etc.

Prediction: The next Radiohead album will be announced on a new site that looks like something you’d make on Geocities circa OK Computer.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 04.28.2016 4 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
new1_boehner

Morning News and Stuff

Council finally approves streetcar operating budget; Rep. Driehaus upset with Hamilton County's poop problem; former Speaker Boehner says what he really thinks of the GOP presidential candidates

Big things happened at Wednesday's City Council meeting. Council finally voted to approve the streetcar's operating budget for the first year after spending the last month squabbling and kicking it back and forth between council and committee. The budget just barely passed in a vote of 5-3, with council members Kevin Flynn, Christopher Smitherman and Charlie Winburn voting against it. Councilwoman Amy Murray was absent from the meeting. Mayor John Cranley, who previously said he would veto any operating budget that didn't get at least six votes, appears to have had enough of this streetcar drama. The mayor decided recently not to veto the budget even if it passed with a mere five votes.

Council also voted to approve a wage hike for city government workers, passing a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for full-time workers and to $10.10 an hour for part-time and seasonal workers. The increase will affect about one out of every five city workers, or about 1,166 workers. Cranley, who introduced the ordinance last month, called council's decision "morally right" and hopes the state will follow suit.

• Students at Northern Kentucky University will see a slight increase in their tuition next year. The NKU Board of Regents voted to pass a 3 percent increase in undergraduate tuition on Wednesday to keep up with rising costs at the university and a decrease in funding from the state. Next year, Kentucky residents can expect to pay an average of $130 more per semester while Cincinnati residents will shell out an extra $200 per semester and nonresidents will pay an extra $260. 

• State Rep. Denise Driehaus is upset with the closure of the Little Miami Incinerator. The incinerator was closed temporarily earlier this month after it was determined that it does not meet federal pollution standards. It served as one of two ways that Hamilton County disposes of human waste, and it's unclear when, or if, it will reopen. Driehaus, who is currently running for Hamilton County commissioner in the upcoming November election, released a statement Thursday morning condemning county for allowing the closure that she saw as avoidable and called for new leadership to better address the issue. 

"This could have and should have been resolved." Driehaus says in the statement. "We need leadership on the County Commission that will roll up their sleeves and work to resolve challenging issues instead of being content to play the blame game when something goes wrong."  

• Since former Speaker of the House John Boehner resigned from his post last October, it seems he feels more free to express his true feelings about the GOP presidential candidates. At an event at Stanford University on Wednesday, Boehner called Texas Sen. Ted Cruz a "miserable son of a bitch." Boehner also disclosed that he and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump are "texting buddies" and that he is also friends with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is currently running way behind Trump and Cruz in the election. However, it seems he and Kasich aren't quite BFFs as he also said that their friendship "requires more effort."

• In other election news, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz announced yesterday that former Hewitt-Packard CEO and GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina will be his running mate. Fiorina was one of the first GOP candidates to drop out of the race and endorsed Cruz in early March. Cruz is the first of any presidential candidate to announce a running mate and his announcement comes a day after as frontrunner Trump just declared victory in five states' Tuesday primaries, bringing the real estate tycoon even closer to securing the GOP nomination.

Stay dry, Cincy! And send any news tips here.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.27.2016 5 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
music hall

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar budget could pass today; bones found in Music Hall; Trump says Clinton plays "women card"

Good morning all. Here’s your news today.

The operating budget for the Cincinnati streetcar again looks likely to move forward in City Council today, barring any major surprises. Of course, that was also the case a couple weeks ago, when the budget stumbled over some last-minute objections by Councilman Kevin Flynn around contingency funding. Flynn’s course reversal left the budget with only five votes, which was not enough to overcome a veto promised by Mayor John Cranley. So back to committee it went, where it passed again yesterday. Cranley has indicated he won’t veto the revised budget, which would move about $550,000 in leftover construction funds into a contingency account, even if it only gets five votes. Flynn thinks leftover construction money should be used for startup costs.

• Hey, this is creepy, though not totally unexpected. Crews working to seal off some asbestos in Music Hall found human remains under the orchestra pit. No, they aren’t what’s left of some unfortunate clarinetists who were a little pitchy in their renditions of Rhapsody in Blue’s opening glissando or timpanists who missed a beat or two in a conductor's favorite Bach piece. The remains, which archeological consultants Gray and Pape say probably belonged to four people, seem to be holdovers from the pit’s 1928 construction. The historic hall, as well as the land around it in Washington Park, spent two decades starting around 1818 as a burial ground for indigent residents. Many of those grave sites were moved in the 1850s, but some lingered, and apparently still do. When Music Hall construction began in 1876, workers were faced with the task of removing the remaining bodies to places like Spring Grove Cemetery. Far be it for me to critique someone else’s work, especially when it’s work that I wouldn’t go anywhere near, but… seems like they missed a few spots. In addition to the remains under the orchestra pit, workers also found a number of grave shafts full of wooden coffins.

• If you’re a frequent flyer, you know the struggle: The Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport, or CVG, used to be the last resort when you wanted to take a flight on the cheap. Places like Dayton and Louisville — or even Columbus — were cheaper enough to fly from that it made the drive worth it. But not any more, apparently. CVG’s fares are now lower than Dayton and Louisville’s airports, and the lowest they’ve been relative to other airports in more than 20 years. That’s in part due to the increase in airlines flying out of CVG, including low-cost carriers like Allegiant Air. CVG still trails Columbus and Indianapolis in terms of affordability, but not by as much as in the past, when our airport was the third-most expensive in the country. These days, it’s 22nd.

• As you might have guessed, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and real estate mogul Donald Trump came up big winners in yesterday’s GOP primaries. Trump swept every county in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, extending his delegate count to 949 of the 1,237 he needs to clinch the GOP nomination. Meanwhile, Clinton won in all those states except Rhode Island, where her challenger, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, prevailed. Clinton’s victories put the Democratic nomination all but out of reach for Sanders, though he’s vowed to stay in the race. Meanwhile, Trump has also solidified his position as the GOP frontrunner — his second-place opponent, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, has only 544 delegates. Third-place contender, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, has just 153 — fewer than U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race weeks ago.

• With an ever-clearer picture of who the nominees for each party are likely to be, the frontrunners’ eyes are turning to the general election. And there are signs it’s gonna be an ugly, ugly race. Perhaps feeling his oats after his decisive victories, Trump yesterday bashed Clinton, saying that she’s only winning primaries because she’s a woman. If you thought Trump might tone it down for the general election in a bid to get more mainstream swing voters, including, you know, women, well… don’t hold your breath for too long on that. Key quote from Trump:

She is a woman, she is playing the woman card left and right,” Mr. Trump told CNN in a post-primary interview. “Frankly, if she didn’t, she would do very poorly. If she were a man and she was the way she is, she would get virtually no votes."
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.25.2016 7 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
texas-tedcruz_officialportrait

Morning News and Stuff

Mann asks Parks Foundation to open its books; Kentucky could build $10 million exit for ark park; Kasich and Cruz embark on a presidential primary buddy comedy

Good morning all. Hope your weekend was as perfect as mine. Let’s talk about news real quick.

Vice Mayor David Mann says the private foundation that raises money for Cincinnati Parks Board should open its books to public scrutiny. The Cincinnati Parks Foundation, a nonprofit group, came under scrutiny last year during a contentious bid for a property tax levy to fund parks improvements put forward by Mayor John Cranley. Voters passed on that proposal, but not before it was revealed that the park board spent money from the foundation on pro-levy campaigns. After the election, further revelations about board spending on travel and perks drew increased scrutiny to the parks board and triggered a city audit. Now, Mann says the foundation should undergo similar scrutiny.

• Speaking of investigations: Are the feds really looking into MSD? Last year, The Enquirer reported that Cincinnati’s metropolitan sewer district was under the microscope of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, presumably over its implementation of a multi-billion-dollar federal order to revamp the city’s sewer system. However, the FBI hasn’t asked for any of the things you’d expect if it was indeed probing the large public department, the Businss Courier reports. No subpoenas have been filed, no hard drives have been seized and no documents have been requested. If there’s truly an investigation happening, it’s very low-key.

• The state of Kentucky could allocate $10 million to revamp a highway exit leading to the religiously-themed Ark Encounter theme park. Watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State has cried foul at that expenditure, saying it amounts to Kentucky using taxpayer dollars to benefit a religious group. The money for the ramp improvements on I-75 and KY 36 made its way into the state’s budget, which is currently in the process of being passed. AUSCS says it doesn’t have any plans as of yet to oppose the money, but says it is continuing to watch the situation. Ark park owners Answers in Genesis say an earlier ruling allowing Kentucky to give tax incentives to the site has answered questions about the legality of such expenditures.

• The mass shooting of eight people in Piketon, Ohio last week has left more questions than answers, and authorities say they’re preparing for a long investigation. All eight victims were related and the shootings happened at three sites close to each other. Authorities say the shootings were expertly planned and executed and noted that two of the three crime scenes contained significant marijuana growing operations. Investigators have not commented on any possible link between the operations and the killings.

• The city of Cleveland has settled a lawsuit with the family of Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed in November 2014 by a Cleveland police officer. The family will get $6 million from the city. A Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to indict officer Timothy Loehmann in that incident. Loehmann leapt from a police cruiser that had stopped feet away from Rice at a Cleveland playground and almost immediately shot him. Rice, 12, had been playing with a toy pistol on the playground when a neighbor called the police. The caller stipulated the gun was probably fake, but dispatchers did not relay that information to officers.

• Do you ever think, "jeez, more papers should be like The Cincinnati Enquirer?" You may be in luck. Gannett, the national corporation that owns the Enquirer as well as USA Today and a number of other publications, has made an offer to buy Tribune Publishing, another large national newspaper chain. Gannett has offered $815 million for the chain, which includes The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other daily newspapers.

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, both GOP presidential primary hopefuls, will collaborate in future primaries to try and trip up frontrunner Donald Trump as he charges toward the party’s nomination. The Kasich campaign has indicated it will focus efforts on New Mexico and Oregon while staying out of Indiana in a move to help Cruz best Trump in that state. In return, Cruz has agreed to stay out of the two western states in a bid to give Kasich the edge over Trump there. The move — which will present Trump with one focused opponent in upcoming contests, instead of the split field he’s faced up to this point — seems calculated toward denying him the 1,137 delegates needed to clinch the nomination outright. Kasich in particular is counting on a contested convention in July, since he badly trails in the delegate count in the current contest.

I'm out. Tweet at your boy or send a good old fashioned email my way.

 
 
by Danny Cross 04.22.2016 10 days ago
Posted In: Media at 11:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
spj

CityBeat Wins National Reporting Award

Nick Swartsell's “That Which Divides Us” recognized for excellence in public service reporting

The Society of Professional Journalists announced the winners of its national Sigma Delta Chi awards today, and CityBeat is among the publications receiving recognition. 

Nick Swartsell’s August 26, 2015 cover story, “That Which Divides Us,” won in the Public Service category for non-daily publications.

That story explored economic segregation in Cincinnati and has helped foster an ongoing conversation around race and economic issues here.

Amid controversy around police shootings of unarmed African Americans and subsequent civil unrest in cities like Baltimore and Chicago, Swartsell delved into the persistent socioeconomic factors that feed into America’s deep problems with race. The site of profound civil unrest in 2001 over the police shooting of Timothy Thomas, Cincinnati is, unfortunately, a prime place in which to examine these tensions. 

Swartsell analyzed 2010 Census and 2011-2014 American Community Survey data on a neighborhood level, even down to the Census tract in some cases, to present a picture of a city starkly segregated by class and race, where tensions bubble up from the deep crevices of inequality separating blacks and whites. The article also incorporated overall median income statistics, infant mortality rates and other data illustrating the negative impacts of economic segregation in a city where the nine lowest-income neighborhoods are predominantly African American and the nine highest-income are predominantly, in many cases more than 90 percent, white.

“That Which Divides Us” traced the history of economic segregation in Cincinnati and comparable cities across the country, exploring federal policies, inaction by city officials and other factors to explain why so many African Americans in Cincinnati grow up and remain in a cycle of poverty, cordoned off in crumbling and over-policed neighborhoods or caught up in the justice system’s revolving doors.

Finally, the article traced signs of hope — new efforts by activists and officials to bring economic opportunities to a city that the Brookings Institute recently ranked 81st in the nation in terms of racially inclusive economic prosperity.

The story was also recognized by national long-form journalism site Longreads.com, which named it a top pick last year.

The Sigma Delta Chi awards highlight the best professional journalism from publications around the country. News outlets including the Associated Press, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times are among the 84 Sigma Delta Chi award winners in various newspaper, magazine, television and radio categories chosen from almost 1,500 entries this year.

The award, established in 1932, is named for the original moniker of the SPJ. The 107-year-old organization is the oldest and one of the largest in the United States representing professional journalists.

This is CityBeat’s first time winning the award. The complete list of winners can be found here
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.22.2016 10 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
fountainsquare-downtowncincinnati-resized

Morning News and Stuff

Population increases in Cincy's urban core; Driehaus and Deters release fundraising totals in county commission race; Prince is dead and I am sad

Good morning all. Or, well, let's be honest with ourselves: This is a not good morning. Prince is dead. The Reds lost yesterday in what appears to be the highest-scoring no-hitter since the 1880s. There’s some rain in the forecast today. Ouch.

Anyway, here’s the rest of the news if you can bear it.

• Hey, here’s something positive. The population of Cincinnati’s urban core — Over-the-Rhine, downtown, Pendleton and the East End — has increased, according to a new report from Downtown Cincinnati Inc. The Business Courier has the details on that study, but the upshot is that about 400 more people lived in the city’s 45202 ZIP code last year than did in 2014, and the population there is now almost 16,000. There are certainly downsides to this growth, as we explore in this week’s news feature. But the uptick in population signals the continued reversal in a historic trend that saw people leaving the urban core for decades.

• Contenders in the upcoming Hamilton County Commissioners race — Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus and Republican incumbent Dennis Deters (that’s a lot of Ds) — just released their post-primary fundraising totals. Driehaus brought in $64,000 for the fundraising period, bringing her total take so far up to $308,000, according to her campaign. The campaign says that 65 percent of that take came from donors pledging $100 or less. Deters meanwhile, has raised about $92,000 so far, according to WCPO, but most of that has come since the new year. Many expect the race to be one of the most expensive ever, with Driehaus saying she hopes to raise $1 million before all is said and done. Control of the currently Republican-led county commission hangs in the balance with the unusually competitive race.

• Republic Street in Over-the-Rhine won’t be getting a rooftop deck bar, a city board ruled yesterday. The Lang Thang Group, which runs neighborhood restaurants Quan Hapa and Pho Lang Thang, wanted to build the deck as part of its planned Crown & Key bar at 1332 Republic St. Residents there didn’t oppose the bar, but did take issue with the deck, which they feared would cause unwelcome noise and other detriments to quality of life in the neighborhood. A residents group that pushed back against the deck also cited ways in which the plan violated historic conservation guidelines in the neighborhood. The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals agreed with residents. The Lang Thang Group can challenge that decision in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas if it chooses.

• Cincinnati Public Schools will remake seven of its neighborhood schools next year. The remakes are part one of a larger plan called Vision 2020 to make CPS more attractive by adding additional programs to schools. Next year, schools like Chase School in Northside will get expanded arts and culture offerings, while others like Rothenberg Academy in Over-the-Rhine will get student entrepreneurship classes.

• Finally, as the GOP presidential primary continues to get weirder and more chaotic, national media is looking more at Ohio Gov. John Kasich to… well, I guess try to figure out what he’s thinking. Kasich trails primary frontrunner Donald Trump and second-placer U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz badly in the race’s delegate count, and there's no mathematical way for him to win the nomination aside from a contested convention. Party leaders and pundits have been pushing for Kasich to leave the race for months. But he’s still going, and that’s newsworthy, I suppose. Earlier this week, Kasich met with the editorial board of the Washington Post for an extended interview, where he laid out his reasons for staying in the race. I’ll leave you with a key quote from Kasich.

“The last poll that we saw up there I was running five points behind Hillary. Five. Trump was getting slaughtered. I mean, you guys have been watching and girl- women here have been watching the national polls. I win in the fall every time, even in that electoral deal, and Trump gets slaughtered.”

Mark this as the moment you learned that girl-women will help Kasich win that electoral deal. Send your thoughts on that knowledge-nugget, or your news tips, via e-mail or Twitter. I'm out.

 
 
by Danny Cross 04.21.2016 11 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_wwe_johnkasich

Morning News & Stuff

Dems criticize Kasich's campaign tab, Harriet Tubman on the $20, various discrimination news

Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s unlikely road to the GOP presidential nomination took yet another hit in New York on Tuesday. While Kasich topped Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, finishing second, his 25 percent only yielded four delegates. Frontrunner Donald Trump took just over 60 percent of the votes, for 89.

Back in Ohio, the Democratic Party is running ads bashing Kasich for wasting taxpayer money traveling across the country to be part of the GOP primary show. State Dems say Kasich has spent 177 days outside Ohio and that his campaign has cost $350,000 of public funding.

Politifact looked into the data and suggests that number could be more like $400,000.

State funds from the public safety department’s non-highway program, which includes the governor’s security detail, is likely paying for rental cars, hotel rooms, flights, fuel, per diems and overtime while Kasich criss-crosses the country chasing delegates.

But the Dispatch story describes how cagey state agencies are being with these specifics. Information that was public in the years before Kasich’s run is now shielded. On payroll records, the governor’s detail was previously listed as the "executive protection unit." Officials told the Dispatch that that designation that has been dropped to shield the troopers’ identities.

• Behind this relatively callous headline is the story of a local community with so little money it can’t pay its bill for Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputies to patrol. Lincoln Heights might have to disband, though nearby communities aren’t going to be super excited to absorb the village because of its financial troubles.

• The era of “Big Weed” is fast approaching, as private entities salivate over the revenue numbers coming out of places that have some sort of legal pot. Some are concerned that profiteers might put their own interests ahead of the public’s — marijuana is typically being legalized for medicinal purposes before recreational — and some say there’s reason to think marijuana opponents are helping open the door for the bad people to take over the industry.

• Andrew Jackson doesn’t have a very good reputation among people who recognized United States’ imperialistic and genocidal history, particularly his large part in it. America’s seventh president yesterday was booted from the front of the $20 bill, replaced by abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Jackson will still appear on the back of the note, along with an image of the White House.

Here’s how some racists are reacting to the news.

• England is warning tourists about the discrimination LGBT people could face if they visit America’s grand state of North Carolina.

• Speaking of discrimination against gay people in the 21st century after the Supreme Court has legalized gay marriage, Kim Davis still wants her religious freedom to allow her to impose her beliefs on other people. A federal appeals court won’t take her lawsuit, however, dismissing her argument that she shouldn’t have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

• The news is apparently full of bigots and homophobes taking L’s today. Former Major League Baseball star Curt Shilling can now add “former” to his title as an analyst for ESPN — he was fired yesterday for the latest in a series of ridiculous comments, social media posts and defenses of offensive memes. Here’s the latest one.

Here’s a little bit about what got Shilling to this point, via Deadspin:

This was far from the first time Schilling crossed a line at ESPN. Two months ago, he said Hillary Clinton “should be buried under a jail somewhere.” Three months ago, Schilling joked about being fired from ESPN for his donation to Ben Carson. Seven months ago, ESPN had nothing to say about Schilling posting insane memes on Facebook. Eight months ago, Schilling tweeted a meme comparing Muslims and Nazis, and was suspended for it. Shortly after that, he emailed a long, strange rant to a blogger to clarify his thoughts about Muslims and Nazis, and was suspended for the rest of the season.

When the easiest way to find information about someone is to google “______ is an asshole,” you know you’ve had quite a big platform to espouse terrible things. Schilling has worked for ESPN off and on since 2010.

• Speaking of sports, the Reds beat the Colorado Rocky Mountains again yesterday, but they don’t know which relief pitcher to trust in the ninth inning going forward because so many have metaphorically set leads on fire during the first couple weeks of the season.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 04.20.2016 12 days ago
Posted In: News at 01:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_pgsittenfeld_jf2

Task Force Unveils New Initatives Aimed at Reducing Campus Sexual Assault

Eight-month endeavor results in new informational campaign and city portal for support services

A task force created by City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld unveiled new initiatives at a Tuesday press conference aimed at better supporting survivors and educating the community about sexual assault. 

The effort, called the Task Force Reduce Campus Gender-Based Violence, involved eight months of concerned parties working together to come up with ways the city can reduce campus sexual assault and better aid survivors. Participants included the Cincinnati Police Department, University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, Cincinnati Public Schools, local nonprofits, university students and sexual assault survivors.

As chair of Council's Education and Entrepreneurship Committee, Sittenfeld said he saw sexual assault as a disruption to a student's right to education.  

"Last fall, Cincinnati became one of the first and only cities in the country to convene a city wide task force to address reducing gender-based violence, especially on and around our college campuses," Sittenfeld said, "and we've been developing community-specific best practices around awareness and prevention, survivor support, and policies and protocols." 

Kristin Shrimplin is the executive director of nonprofit Women Helping Women and co-chaired the task force. She introduced the city-wide gender-based violence awareness campaign called, "It's On Us, Cincinnati." 

Based off of the national "It's On Us" initiative created by President Barack Obama in 2014, the campaign focuses on educating and engaging the general public about gender-based violence by having people sign a pledge to make a personal commitment to help end sexual assault on campus.  

"This campaign is about energizing and educating the community and surrounding students about what gender-based violence is," Shrimplin said, "how it impacts all of us and how we all have a role in ending it, and supporting those students who have already experience such violence." 

Kate Lawson,  chief Title IX officer for Xavier University, who also co-chaired the task force, said members also developed and launched a one-stop city web portal that will include information for survivors and the community on support services. The portal will also feature videos from task force members dispelling common myths and misconceptions associated with sexual assault. 

Task Force members Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac, Xavier President Michael J. Graham and University of Cincinnati Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Beverly Davenport also spoke at the conference about the importance of the new initiatives and newly established cooperation between community resources. 

In recent years the prevalence of sexual assault on campus has been a growing concern nationwide for universities. 

A 2015 National Sexual Violence Resource Center Report found that one in five college women and one in 16 college men will experience some form of attempted form of sexual assault as a college student. 

Kristen Meyer of Oakley said when she sexually assaulted five years ago just before her sophomore year at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, the university's police department did little to support her. 

"I was told this was happening every weekend on campus, and I was also told that 70 percent of rapes go unreported," said Meyer, who was visibly emotional while recounting the experience. "On top of that, I was told this process would be grueling. That's when I realized this crime is shrouded in silence, and it incriminates the victims rather than the offenders." 

Meyer said the experience led to pushback from her friends and members of the small campus community. She developed severe anxiety and depression from the assault and aftermath and eventually dropped out of school. 

Meyer's speech at the end of the conference was abruptly interrupted when Sittenfeld collapsed about 25 minutes into it. Medics quickly tended to him, and he said later that the incident was caused by overheating and having low-blood sugar. Sittenfeld attended other meetings later in the day.

 
 
by Danny Cross 04.20.2016 12 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
trump

Morning News & Stuff

Sittenfeld suffers scare, group offers recommendations for reducing violent crime, Trump and Clinton get through N.Y.

City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld suffered a scare yesterday when he collapsed during a press conference at City Hall. Medics quickly tended to the councilman and former Senate candidate, who later said he was simply overheated and had low blood sugar.

Sittenfeld said he’ll get the A/C pumped up at City Hall and will be fine.


The incident occurred toward the end of a press conference to announce a new city-wide initiative intended to combat sexual assault on campus.


• On Monday, a group working on recommendations for the city to help combat violent crime announced its findings to a City Council committee.


Spearheaded by City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, the Violence Prevention Working Group was created in late 2014 when Council cut $400,000 from the city’s Human Services Fund dedicated to violence prevention. The group has been working with neighborhoods and nonprofits to determine effective paths forward.


Participants suggested looking at violent crime as a public health problem and performing a sort of intervention for children who are sometimes being shaped by adults involved in violence.

Working group members from the Cincinnati Health Department, the Cincinnati Police Department and local nonprofit the GLAD House recommended that the city provide $500,000 toward violence prevention to be matched with $250,000 in private funding, appoint a representative from CPD to the Human Services Advisory Council and support the appointment of one organization to serve as the backbone of the plan.

CityBeat covered the announcement in more detail here.


• Walnut Hills High School and Wyoming High School ranked first and second, respectively, in U.S. News and World Report’s latest Ohio high school rankings. Cincinnati in total has five of the top 10 Ohio schools, while Northern Kentucky has four of the top 10 in that state. 


• In bad school news, Miami University suspended two fraternities for hazing. Miami reportedly investigated 21 hazing allegations in February at 12 sororities and fraternities. Bad college kids.  


• Local air quality is pretty bad, but it’s improving according to an annual air quality report by the American Lung Association.


• Cincinnati parking meter revenues are up, which is a common occurrence after raising rates and increasing hours of enforcement. Assistant City Manager John Juech says the city is gleaning a lot of information from the newer smart meters, such as where people park a lot and where they don’t. Revenues are up 60 percent, the city says.


• Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton won their home state primaries in New York yesterday. You don’t have to be a delegate math wizard to realize America is one big step closer to a Clinton-Trump presidential race, but here’s the requisite note from the Washington Post.

Trump’s victory puts him closer to clinching the GOP nomination and should at least temporarily quell speculation that he will fall short of the votes needed before the July convention.


Clinton held a comfortable lead throughout the campaign and her victory makes it near-mathematically impossible for Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) to overtake her lead in the race for convention delegates.

But is Trump’s jet still registered to fly?


• Vox explains why 4/20 is national weed day. One theory involves high school students getting high every day at 4:20 p.m. and then using 4/20 as a code word. Stoners are extremely creative.


• The Reds played a team with a dumb name from Colorado last night, beating the Mountains 4-3 and stealing five bases in a single inning.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 04.19.2016 13 days ago
Posted In: News at 12:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
yvette simpson

Working Group Presents Recommendations for Reducing Violent Crime

Strategies include initiatives for at-risk parents and youth

A group working to craft recommendations for a long-term strategy for reducing violent crime in the city presented its findings to City Council's Human Services, Youth and Arts Committee on Monday. 

The Violence Prevention Working Group, initiated by City Council, was formed in November 2014 when council removed $400,000 from the Human Services Fund dedicated to violence-prevention work. Creating a group dedicated to finding a holistic approach to breaking the cycle of violent crime, along with additional prevention efforts, was part of that change-up.

The Violence Prevention Working Group was spearheaded by Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, who co-chaired the initiative with Vice Mayor David Mann. Simpson says the city's funding stream dedicated to targeting violent crime had not been following a long-term, comprehensive strategy.  

"The magic of the model as well is that it's not a law enforcement only model, although law enforcement is a part of it and essential to it," Simpson said on Monday. "It's also a health-department focused model and a community-based model."

Four sessions brought together 36 participants from city organizations and community nonprofitssuch as Cincinnati Public Schools, United Way and the Greater Cincinnati Foundationin neighborhoods that have experienced high rates of violent crime. They were held from October of last year to March of this year — two in South Avondale and one each in the West End and Westwood. 

The city has seen a recent increase in violent crime, particularly homicides, which are up 13 percent this year, according to statistics from the Cincinnati Police Department. 

Working group members from the Cincinnati Health Department, the Cincinnati Police Department and local nonprofit the GLAD House recommended that the city provide $500,000 toward violence prevention to be matched with $250,000 in private funding, appoint a representative from CPD to the Human Services Advisory Council and support the appointment of one organization to serve as the backbone of the plan.

The plan's main strategies focus on efforts to engage the entire community and direct services toward early intervention initiatives for at-risk children and their parents. 

Camille Jones, the assistant health commissioner at the Cincinnati Department of Health, presented research that tied youth delinquency behavior to 20 environmental factors. The strongest indicators were child maltreatment, harsh parenting, parental drug use and adolescent substance abuse. 

Jones discussed the concept of looking at violent crime as a public health problem, treating it as if it were a contagious disease that could be passed from person to person, especially when someone is repeatedly exposed to it, such as a child. 

Georgine Gerry, executive director of the RAND House, which provides mental health services to children, agreed there needs to be a community-wide intervention for the city's kids. 

"The focus needs to be on the adults who help shape those youth: the parents, the families and the community members," Getty said. 

Cincinnati Police Department District 4 Captain Maris Herold discussed the department's Place-Based Investigations of Violent Offender Territories, or PIVOT, initiative that it launched in February 

The PIVOT approach focuses on tackling the city's long-standing crime "hot spots" and focuses on carefully monitoring the locations and known offenders' networks through data, rather than increasing police in those particular locations. 

Herold said the hot spots are typically very small areas often amounting to a single address. They account for just 1.4 percent of Cincinnati's area, and increases in law enforcement to those areas actually did more to strain police-community relations with law abiding residents than prevent crime in the long run.

"Ninety-nine percent, probably even higher, of people in a hot spot are just trying to get by and do the right thing,"  Herold says. 

Councilman Wendell Young, who spoke after the group had concluded its presentation, said it is time for the entire community to step up. 

"I see this as the problem I always saw it as, a citywide problem," he said.  

Simpson says the plan will eventually be presented to the full Council.
 
 
 
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