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by German Lopez 04.23.2013
Posted In: News, Voting, Budget, Police at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

House budget bill may suppress student voters, tax plan favors wealthy, police chief may go

An amendment in the Ohio House budget bill last week would make it so universities have to decide between providing voting information to students or retaining millions of dollars in out-of-state tuition money. The amendment would make it so universities have to classify students as in-state — a classification that means lower tuition rates — when providing documents necessary for voting. Republicans claim the measure is “common sense” because anyone voting for Ohio’s elections should be an Ohio resident. But the amendment has provoked criticism from Democrats and universities alike, who say universities are being thrown into the middle of a voter suppression scheme.

An analysis from left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio found the tax plan currently working through the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature favors the wealthy. The analysis also claimed there’s little evidence the across-the-board tax cuts suggested would significantly help Ohio’s economy. The plan still needs to be approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich.

Council members are asking Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig to remain in Cincinnati instead of taking a job in Detroit, but City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. didn’t seem convinced that much can be done. Dohoney said Craig’s hometown is Detroit, a city that has suffered in recent years as the local economy has rapidly declined.

Democratic Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald is running for governor, and he will make Cincinnati one of his first stops for his campaign kick-off tour. FitzGerald is challenging Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014, who has held the governor’s office since 2010. A recent poll found Kasich in a comfortable position with a nine-point lead on FitzGerald, but many respondents said they don’t know enough about FitzGerald to have an opinion on him.

Greater Cincinnati home sales hit a six-year high in March, with 2,190 homes sold. The strong housing market, which is recovering from a near collapse in 2008, is widely considered by economists to be a good sign for the overall economy.

But Ohio’s venture capital investments dropped to a two-year low, according to data from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.

The Ohio EPA and Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District are partnering up to provide a $250,000 grant to help purchase equipment to screen, clean and sort glass — an important part of the recycling industry.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is asking Cincinnatians to forgo lunch on April 24 to take part in the Greater Cincinnati Day of Fasting. The event will let participants “experience a small measure of the hunger that is a part of many people’s daily lives,” according to a press release from Sittenfeld’s office. Participants are also being asked to donate money to the Freestore Foodbank. A ceremony for the event will be held on April 24 at noon in Fountain Square.

The U.S. Senate is moving toward approving bill that would allow states to better enforce and collect online sales taxes.

Mars One is calling all applicants for a mission to colonize Mars in 2023.

The sport of the future is here: combat juggling:

by Nick Swartsell 09.09.2015 83 days ago
Posted In: News, Police at 10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
jeffrey blackwell

UPDATED: City Manager Fires Police Chief Blackwell; Chief Promises Lawsuit

Harry Black cites communication, morale issues; chief's supporters call controversy political

UPDATE: Supporters of fired Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell took to the steps of City Hall Cincinnati City Council chambers to voice their opposition to the chief's dismissal by City Manager Harry Black. Former chief Blackwell himself appeared at Council's public input session, though he was not invited to speak before Council. Afterward, he told reporters outside the chamber that he would file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city, saying he didn't learn why he was being fired from the city and that he still hasn't seen the reports released today about his performance.

Dozens crowded into Council chambers and signed up to speak in favor of the chief. At times, the public hearing got contentious, with Council members and Mayor John Cranley verbally sparring with each other.

Simpson said Blackwell was escorted from CPD HQ after firing. "If this is justified, give this man, Council, the public, the chance to read [the report against Blackwell]," Simpson said. That report had been released just hours earlier.

Councilmembers Simpson, Wendell Young, P.G. Sittenfeld and Chris Seelbach, while acknowledging the seriousness of the charges against Blackwell, said they took deep issue with the way in which he was dismissed. They pointed to the fact they didnt' find out the firing was happening until this morning and that the swearing-in for the interim chief, Eliot Isaac, was taking place immediately after the public hearing.

The tense atmosphere was perhaps exacerbated by rows of chairs reserved for police officers and their families, leaving community members standing toward the back of the room. At times, the mayor took a strong, almost antagonistic approach to public commenters and his critics on Council. At one point, Cranley scolded Councilwoman Yvette Simpson for raising her voice and cut her off, saying her allotted six minutes were up. Later in the meeting, after several warnings, Cranley had a few members of the public removed by officers for interrupting while he was speaking.

Some Councilmembers, including former Cincinnati Police officer Young, questioned the appearance the large group of CPD officers in the room presented, saying it heightened tensions.  City Manager Harry Black then dismissed many of the officers until the public hearing concluded.

Cranley and Black admonished Councilmembers and the public not to rush to judgement, and to read the report detailing the allegations against Blackwell. Cranley called the evidence against Blackwell "overwhelming" and said that anyone reading the report would conclude that Black "made the right choice."


City Manager Harry Black announced this morning that he has fired Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell due to "lack of sufficient and proper communication, particularly within the command staff, coupled with a consistent and pervasive disregard for the chain of command," according to a 35-page memo the city released today. That memo contained testimony from CPD officials alleging poor leadership from the chief.

The city also released a department climate assessment that says a lack of communication, leadership and technology has contributed to low morale and has put the department at risk of high rates of officer attrition.

Black announced that Assistant Police Chief Eliot Isaac, a 26-year veteran of CPD, will be the interim police chief.

You can read the climate assessment here and the memo here.

Among the allegations against Blackwell in the report, which includes statements from CPD Specialist Scotty Johnson and Public Information Officer Tiffany Hardey, are charges that Blackwell has been verbally abusive and retaliatory toward officers, that he has been unavailable during critical moments in recent months, that he played favorites in assigning overtime, that he spent too much time self-promoting, including taking selfies at the funeral of murdered CPD officer Sonny Kim and that he used his perch as chief to get free tickets to sporting events.

Blackwell has been embattled for months. Early this summer, severance documents between Blackwell and the city came to light, though these were never signed by the chief and he asserted he was staying on the force. More recently, Cincinnati's Fraternal Order of Police announced a Sept. 14 meeting, and union leadership said officers would take a vote of no confidence in Blackwell.

Blackwell’s critics say the Cincinnati Police Department's critical staffing, communication and morale issues have festered this summer as gun crimes rose, the department dealt with the shooting death of officer Sonny Kim and other difficult circumstances challenged the department.

But the chief’s supporters, including some council members and other public figures, say he’s done a fantastic job during a difficult time in the city and that his potential ouster is political in nature. They point to the fact that when he was campaigning for mayor, Cranley asked then-City Manager Milton Dohoney not to hire a chief until the election was finished so the newly elected mayor could have a say in the hiring. Dohoney hired Blackwell despite this request. Blackwell’s supporters say Cranley would like to oust Blackwell and install his own choice for police chief.

by Danny Cross 11.16.2011

Morning News and Stuff

The Rev. Jesse Jackson addressed Occupy Cincinnati yesterday at Piatt Park. Later in the day 15 individuals were arrested for staying in the park past its 10 p.m. closing time, the first arrests in weeks, as protesters have challenged the legality of the park closing at all. Jackson was reportedly scheduled to return to the park at noon on Wednesday to again speak with Occupy Cincinnati.

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by German Lopez 05.06.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Police, Republicans at 09:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
downtown grocery

Morning News and Stuff

Parking hearing today, police chief may go, tea party planning against GOP

The First District County Court of Appeals heard arguments over the city’s parking plan and emergency clause powers today, with both sides making similar arguments as before — except this time the city acknowledged it will probably have to move forward with layoffs because the city only has a few weeks remaining before it has to balance the budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1. The city claims it can use emergency clauses to expedite legislation, such as the parking plan, by eliminating a 30-day waiting period and the possibility of a referendum, but opponents argue the wording in the City Charter doesn’t justify terminating referendum efforts. If courts side with opponents, the city’s plan to lease its parking assets to the Port Authority, which CityBeat covered here, will likely appear on the ballot in November, forcing the city to lay off cops, firefighters and other city employees instead of using the parking plan to help balance the budget.

It’s looking more and more likely that Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig will take the top police job in Detroit, despite Cincinnati officials asking Craig to reconsider. Previously, Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on City Council, pushed city officials to do more to encourage Craig to stay, but City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said Craig’s motivations may be personal because his family resides in Detroit, a city that is in desperate need of a turnaround.

Ohio’s tea party groups are preparing to either split from the Republican Party or punish Republican leaders for recent actions, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Tea party groups have been particularly upset with Gov. John Kasich’s endorsement of the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered in further detail here and here, and Ohio Republicans’ election of Matt Borges, who once lobbied for a gay rights group, as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. Since the 2010 elections, tea party groups have kept political footholds in some areas, but they have consistently lost favor with voters.

In case you missed it, here was CityBeat’s news coverage for the current week’s issue, which went online late because of Internet issues:

A portion of the Ohio House budget bill would make it more difficult for out-of-state students to vote in Ohio by forcing public universities to decide between extra tuition money and providing documents that students need to vote. Republicans say the rule is meant to lower tuition and prevent out-of-state students from voting on local issues they may know little about, but Democrats, backed by university officials, say the rule suppresses college-going voters, who tend to support Democrats over Republicans.

Ohio Senate President Keith Faber said there is no substantial Republican support in the Ohio House, Ohio Senate or governor’s mansion for so-called “right to work” legislation. The lack of support for the anti-union laws, which prevent unions and employers from making collective bargaining agreements that require union membership, may be linked to 2011’s voter rejection of Senate Bill 5, which would have limited public unions’ collective bargaining and political powers. S.B. 5 was one reason unions, including the Republican-leaning Fraternal Order of Police, supported Democrats in 2012.

Despite security concerns in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon, Sunday’s Flying Pig Marathon had a record 34,000 participants.

Ohio gas prices are trending up this week.

Now on Kickstarter: Genetically modified plants that glow.

by German Lopez 08.14.2013
Posted In: News, Police, Health care, LGBT Issues at 09:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
evolution of equality

Morning News and Stuff

Gay marriage still recognized; Ohio could expand, save on Medicaid; death after Taser use

A federal judge on Tuesday extended the temporary restraining order recognizing a gay couple’s marriage in Ohio. As CityBeat covered here, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and is expected to die soon, sued local and state officials hoping to have their Maryland marriage acknowledged by Ohio before Arthur’s death certificate was issued. Judge Timothy Black sided with the couple, and he’s now extended the temporary restraining order until December, which should provide enough time for Arthur’s expected death and the remaining legal battle. The judge has made it clear that the order only applies to Obergefell and Arthur.

Ohio could spend less on Medicaid if it expands eligibility for the program, according to a new analysis from Ohio State University and the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. But the expansion would have to come with cost controls that cap spending growth at 3.5 percent to 4 percent, as opposed to the current rate of 7.2 percent. Still, the analysis shows that policies including an expansion can save the state money. Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the federal government is asking states to expand Medicaid to include anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In return, the federal government would pay for the entire expansion for the first three years then phase down its payments to 90 percent of the expansion’s cost. Typically, the federal government pays for about 60 percent of Medicaid in Ohio.

A Sycamore Township man died yesterday after Hamilton County deputies used a Taser on him during a brief struggle. Deputies found Gary Roell, 59, half-clothed and smashing windows right before they took him into custody. It’s unclear how many times the Taser was used or whether the Taser was the direct cause of death. Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil says the deputies followed protocol, given the violent actions carried out by Roell, who punched a deputy in the face during the confrontation. Still, some groups have been asking police departments around the country to change protocol altogether. A 2012 report from Amnesty International found at least 500 people died in the United States between 2001 and 2012 after being shocked with Tasers during their arrests or while in jail.

The 2013 Ohio Health Issues Poll found that higher-income Ohio adults reported better health than those with lower incomes. In 2013, 59 percent of Ohio adults above 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly $15,856 for a single-person household, reported “excellent” or “very good” health, compared to only 26 percent of those below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $11,490 for a single-person household. The United Way of Greater Cincinnati is pointing to the results as just one other way life is more difficult for low-income Ohioans. The group intends to get at least 70 percent of the community to report “excellent” or “very good” health by 2020. Only about 53 percent of adults in southwest Ohio currently report such health, according to the Ohio Health Issues Poll.

Hamilton County is still offering its free recycling program for electronic equipment, including computers and televisions, until noon on Oct. 26.

The Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) today sent out a warning to college students asking them to watch out for drugged drinks. OIU provided four safety tips: Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks can be drugged, students shouldn’t leave a drink laying around or turn their backs on it, they shouldn’t accept drinks from strangers or someone they don’t trust, and students should watch their friends’ drinks and act if they see anything suspicious. The Ohio Incident Based Reporting System (OIBRS) shows there were 14 incidents of forcible rape with drug as a weapon in 2012, but not all Ohio police departments report to OIBRS, so the numbers are likely understated.

A developer is planning to build 20 apartments in the mostly vacant Schwartz office building on Main Street, along the streetcar’s planned route.

Developers are still working on building apartments above the Fountain Place retail complex, as announced nine months ago.

Another steakhouse is opening in downtown Cincinnati.

Delta is now offering direct flights from Cincinnati to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Jungle Jim’s sold a $1 million Mega Millions ticket.

Watch lab-grown heart tissue beat on its own here.

by Danny Cross 10.21.2011

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati Police arrested more than 20 Occupy Cincinnati protesters last night. Here's a recap of the events, which notes that a parade to honor local billionaire Carl Lindner was scheduled for this morning.

Here's an impressive collection of reports that back up nearly every grievance articulated in its first official press release. The research was done by a young woman in Boston who runs a Congressional watchdog website called C-SPAN geek. You can follow her on Twitter here.

Read More

by German Lopez 06.20.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Taxes, Police at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Texting while driving eludes police, parking lease stalled, Ohio tax code still complex

Even though it’s now illegal under local and state law, texting while driving often eludes punishment in Greater Cincinnati. The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department has issued no tickets so far to vehicular texters, while the Cincinnati Police Department has given out 28, with only four going to teenagers. Although almost everyone acknowledges the dangers of texting while driving, police say it’s very difficult to catch texters in the act, especially since most of them claim they were just making phone calls.

Otto Budig, board chairman of the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, apparently told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the Port Authority won’t sign the parking lease until it gets assurances about city funding. City Council considered pulling $100,000 from the Port Authority while putting together the budget for fiscal year 2014. Now, Budig says the Port Authority wants some sort of financial assurance, perhaps as part of the parking lease, that the city won’t threaten future funding. The city announced Tuesday it had signed the lease, but some opponents, including Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, are still looking for ways to repeal the plan.

A Policy Matters Ohio report found the state’s tax code remains complicated under the Ohio Senate budget plan and the budget actually added tax breaks, despite earlier promises of simplification from House and Senate leaders. Meanwhile, Mike Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans, says the General Assembly will take up tax reform later in the year. The Ohio Department of Taxation says the tax breaks will cost Ohio nearly $8 billion in fiscal year 2015, and Policy Matters says many of the exemptions, deductions and credits are wasteful.

Commentary: “Republican Medicaid Opposition Ignores Ohio’s Best Interests.”

JobsOhio topped a ranking from Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) that looks at government agencies’ “unrelenting commitment to undermining the public's right to know.” IRE mocked JobsOhio and the state Republicans for making it increasingly difficult to find out how the agency uses its public funds. Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, have also criticized Republicans for blocking a public audit of JobsOhio, which was established by Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators in 2011 to eventually replace the public Ohio Department of Development. JobsOhio’s supporters argue the agency’s privatized, secret nature allows it to move at the “speed of business” to better boost the economy.

The Cincinnati Museum Center is looking to ask Hamilton County residents to renew its operating levy in May 2014, even though the museum promised in 2009 that it wouldn’t do so. The museum argues circumstances have changed, with Union Terminal crumbling and in need of about $163 million in repairs. When the museum originally made its promise against more operating levies, it was expecting to make repairs through a capital levy, but Hamilton County commissioners dismissed that idea. Hamilton County commissioners will have to approve the operating levy before it goes on the ballot.

An Ohio bill would ban anyone under the age of 18 from tanning at a salon unless a doctor gives permission for medical reasons. This is the third time Ohio legislators have proposed measures against indoor tanning in recent years.

Personhood Ohio, the anti-abortion group trying to ban abortions in Ohio by defining life as beginning at conception, is fundraising by selling assault rifles.

Here is a map showing how green Earth is in the most literal terms.

We now have an explanation for why everyone is so nice and loving to CityBeat’s Hannah McCartney: A study found people are mostly mean to their unattractive coworkers.

Got questions for CityBeat about anything related to Cincinnati? Submit your questions here and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.

CityBeat is looking to talk to convicted drug offenders from Ohio for an upcoming cover story. If you’d like to participate or know anyone willing to participate, email glopez@citybeat.com.

by Danny Cross 11.01.2011

Morning News and Stuff

Occupy Cincinnati protesters have asked a judge to throw all charges against them, arguing that the park rules are unconstitutional which means their punishments shouldn't exist. The cases are expected to be delayed until the constitutional argument is figured out.

Two county commissioners say they want to help the county's Job and Family Services agency after an Enquirer analysis detailed massive funding, technology and staffing shortages that might have contributed to the deaths of three toddlers during the last 10 months. Republican Greg Hartmann and Democrat Todd Portune have suggested the agency use money from a reserve set aside for an expected bookkeeping penalty while they vote on a budget that will stay the same as last year.

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by Danny Cross 11.22.2011

Morning News and Stuff

The Hamilton County Commissioners' stadium funding failures have caused County Auditor Dusty Rhodes to describe a “dream world” where politicians think their inaction doesn't affect anybody. Today's news that the stadium fund will be bankrupt by March without additional funding has not deterred Republican Chris Monzel and Democrat Todd Portune from giving property owners the tax credit that convinced them to vote for the 1996 sales tax increase.

"It would be the height of irresponsibly to commit funds they knew were not there," Rhodes said. "I've long criticized various governments for living in dream world.

"This takes it to a whole new level," Rhodes said.

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by Nick Swartsell 07.23.2015 131 days ago
Posted In: News, Police at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Protesters Demand Deters Release Dubose Shooting Video

Family, friends demand transparency in investigation of police-involved shooting

A group of about 30 gathered outside Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters' office today to demand release of tapes showing events that led up to the death of Samuel Dubose, who was shot and killed by University of Cincinnati Police July 19 in Mount Auburn following a traffic stop for a missing front license plate. Many of those attending were family or friends of Dubose.

"We are not going away," said his cousin, Ebony Johnson, as she stood outside the prosecutor's office with a license plate. "We are not going anywhere until we get satisfaction and our cousin can rest in peace. I'm sure he's not at rest, because we're not at rest. The sooner this investigation is done and justice is served, we can rest and you won't hear any more from the Dubose family."

The Cincinnati Police Department has finished its probe into the shooting, but Deters says he’ll hold much of that evidence, including multiple videos of the incident, not releasing it to the public despite public records requests from local media, including CityBeat. University of Cincinnati officials indicated a willingness to release those videos during a news conference yesterday, but Deters says making that evidence public would jeopardize the chances of a fair trial for the officer involved, should charges be brought against him. Deters released a statement soon after the protest saying the law is on his side.

"If you do not want to look at the law and just use your common sense, it should be clear why we are not releasing the video only a few days after the incident occurred," the statement said. "We need time to look at everything and do a complete investigation so that the community is satisfied that we did a thorough job. The Grand Jury has not seen the video yet and we do not want to taint the Grand Jury process.  The video will be released at some point -- just not right now.”

Deters plans to wrap up his investigation sometime next week and present his findings to a grand jury. University of Cincinnati Police officer Ray Tensing shot and killed 43-year-old Dubose after a traffic stop initiated because Dubose didn’t have a front license plate. Dubose was driving on a suspended license. According to the official police line of events, Dubose struggled with Tensing over his car door and attempted to drive away. Tensing shot him at that point and then fell to the ground, sustaining minor injuries from Dubose’s car, officials say. Since that time, information has trickled out about the killing, though not nearly enough for Dubose’s family, friends and activists who have staged a number of protests demanding answers about the death of Dubose, who was the father of 13 children.

Protesters outside the Hamilton County Prosecutor's office demand release of evidence in Samuel Dubose shooting
Nick Swartsell

Nygel Miller says he was a friend of Samuel Dubose's from childhood. "We want justice," Miller says. "We want the release of those tapes. We want the officer charged. We want him removed from his duties. We want the officer to be talked about the way our young black men have been spoken about by this prosecutor."

Recently, Deters has been embroiled in controversy over his statements calling people his office prosecutes “soulless” and “thugs" after unrest on July 4 that resulted in items being thrown at police officers and the beating of an Indiana man by several men near Fountain Square.

Meanwhile, protests around Dubose's death have been peaceful so far. But tension is mounting, some say, fueled by distrust in a grand jury system that has failed to indict several officers who have shot unarmed black men in places like Ferguson, Mo. and Beavercreek, Ohio. The tension has an especially profound history in Cincinnati, which suffered days of civil unrest following the 2001 police shooting of unarmed Timothy Thomas. Though Cincinnati Police have undergone reforms since that time, instituting a nationally renowned plan called the Collaborative Agreement, pain remains here. Thirty-one people have died at the hands of police since 2000 in Cincinnati, including three high-profile deaths this year.

"I'm not sure I can continue to hold the anger down," said State Sen. Cecil Thomas, who evoked memories of 2001 at the rally today. "I'm urging him. Release the tapes and let the evidence speak for itself. ... We need that to bring the beginning of some closure to the family."

Thomas pointed to cases in places like Beavercreek, where John Crawford III was shot in a Walmart by Beavercreek police Aug 5, 2014. Officials refused to release security tapes of the incident for months afterward, though the Crawford family and their attorneys were allowed to view them. A grand jury convened by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine declined to indict Crawford's shooter, Officer Sean Williams. Thomas said that, given those events, it's hard for some in the community to believe justice will be served in Dubose's case.

"We want to make sure that the grand jury sees those tapes, unedited," Thomas said. "Right now there's a tremendous amount of distrust as to whether they're going to do the right thing. The prosecutor that was dealing with the Beavercreek situation was assigned from this office here. That begs the question — will this same prosecutor be assigned here if there is an indictment? We have to keep the pressure on, but we're going to be peaceful."