Good morning all. Here’s the news today as we gear up for what I’m sure will be a rad weekend.
How's that crime plan going so far? At the beginning of the summer, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell was asked by City Manager Harry Black to draft a 90-day plan to reduce the number of shootings in the city, which has seen a major uptick in gun crime (though not murders or other violent crime) since this time last year. The plan to deploy more officers in busy places and spots where kids play and to create curfew centers for young people, was delayed at first by the June 19 shooting of officer Sonny Kim, but parts of it were implemented July 1. So… has it been working?
Blackwell touts CPD’s efforts at keeping crime rates from rising during a complicated summer full of major events like the MLB All-Star Game, outside incidents like the UC police shooting death of Samuel DuBose and the increasing challenges associated with the region’s heroin epidemic.
Shootings this summer have been up 30 percent over last year, and other violent crimes are roughly the same as past years. But that’s not necessarily the whole story. Taking a longer look at crime data, it’s apparent that the city’s recent uptick falls in line with past crime trends. The 291 shootings that have occurred so far this year are identical to the number for this time in 2013. Looking at data over a three-year period, violent crime is down nine percent.
What’s more, many cities across the country have experience much greater upticks in crime this year, including big surges in Baltimore, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. Mayor John Cranley has said that’s not good enough, however, and has vowed to continue reviewing data and strategies to bring crime down. Blackwell has also offered further steps, including keeping the city’s recreation centers open later so teens have places to go after they’re out of school. A $50,000 grant from private donors will help pay rec center staff during those extended hours.
• Opposition is coalescing against Mayor Cranley’s recent proposal to raise property taxes to pay for a $100 million parks revamp. That measure, which will be on the November ballot, would include big changes to Mount Airy Forest on the city’s West Side and Burnet Woods in Clifton. Those changes don’t sit well with opponents, who say proposals they’ve seen so far remove far too many trees and change the character of the urban woods entirely. Mayor Cranley has said that early plans for the parks were preliminary and not final designs. One showed a restaurant in Burnet Woods, for instance, a detail that has been removed since.
Opponents of the plan, including local attorney Tim Mara, also object to the way in which the plan would go forward. Mara says he’s part of a “diverse” coalition opposed to the park plan, which will be launching a formal campaign in the coming weeks. Mara’s complaint: Should the ballot initiative pass, it would vest power over changes to the park with the mayor and the park board, giving Cincinnati City Council no say in what would be done to the parks. Cranley has vowed that any changes to the parks will go through a long public review and comment process. A number of major businesses have backed the plan, including United Dairy Farmers and Kroger.
The property tax boost would raise about $5 million a year, money that would then be used to issue bonds for the rest of the cost of the proposed projects. About a quarter of the money raised would also be banked for future park maintenance and upkeep.
• There is now a build-your-own donut bar in Cincinnati. Top This Donut Bar at University Station near Xavier allows you to just stroll in like you own the place and start dumping bacon and Andes bars and raspberry goo all over your donuts. That sounds amazing and I’m so glad it’s not on my walk to work.
• Let's head uptown, where the new Kroger they’re going to (finally, finally) build there. The Kroger on Short Vine in Coryville will be twice the size of the current store, which looks like a place your grandmother would have shopped in the 1970s when the fancy store across town wasn’t convenient. The new location will have more prepared food options, beer taps, and a number of other amenities. A replacement store at the location, near University of Cincinnati, has been in the works for a long time. Demolition on the current store will begin soon, after which the new store should be open in 12-14 months.
• We’ve all been there before, right? You’re in a shady corner of your local coffee shop or whatever and someone approaches you, looks around, and is all like, “Hey man, what do you think about some weed?” Well maybe that’s just me and I hang out in weird coffee shops. Anyway, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce will be holding listening sessions around the region so representatives of some of its 4,500-member businesses can give their two cents and help the organization determine how to come down on November’s marijuana legalization ballot initiative, a state constitutional amendment proposed by ResponsibleOhio. That proposal would make marijuana legal for anyone 21 and up, but would limit commercial growth to 10 sites owned by the group’s investors. The first listening session is taking place this morning at Coffee Emporium downtown. The next three will take place on Aug. 26 from 9-11 a.m. at Panera Bread locations in Newport, Union Township and Springdale.
That’s it for me. Hit me up with any news tips here.
Theater slows down this time of year as most local companies are readying to launch their 2015-2016 seasons in September. You’ll find two newish productions on local stages — Company at The Carnegie in Covington and 9 to 5 at the Incline in East Price Hill. Stephen Sondheim’s Company is a solid production with a nice turn by Zachary Huffman in the central role of Robert. There are lots of well-performed tunes by a young cast and some able musicians. Here’s my review. I’m not so enthusiastic about the third show of the Incline’s inaugural season: 9 to 5 is a weak offering after the successes of The Producers and 1776. That’s largely due to a script that’s pretty stale and silly, as I mentioned in my review. It’s based on a 1980 movie about a chauvinistic boss and three women who give him his comeuppance. Dolly Parton played a feisty secretary in the movie and had a hit with its title song. When the movie became a 2009 stage musical, she wrote the songs. They don’t add much. Cincinnati Landmark must have pulled out all the stops for the first two shows this summer; this one looks like they cut some corners. These two productions continue through Aug. 30.
This is the final weekend for Hundred Days at Know Theatre. This Rock opera has been an unqualified hit for the 18-year-old Over-the-Rhine venue. I gave it a Critic’s Pick and I’ve talked with several friends who have gone back to see it a second time. Abigail and Shaun Bengson sing their way through a tragic love affair — a marriage cut short by a terminal disease — that ends up feeling pretty joyous since they choose to celebrate their “100 days” as if it was the 60-year marriage they had hoped for. Great concept, great execution. Get a ticket if you can: 513-300-5669
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
Good morning y’all. Here’s what’s happening around the city and beyond today.
Former Mason mayor and state representative Peter Beck was sentenced today to four years in prison on 13 felony convictions related to his role in defrauding investors by luring them into giving money to a failing technology company. Earlier this year, Beck was convicted of fraud, theft and perjury charges, though he was also found not guilty on 25 other charges. He faced up to 50 years in prison for his role in Christopher Technologies, which was already insolvent when Beck and other company leaders convinced investors to put money into it. Beck and his partners then spent that money elsewhere, leaving investors with nothing.
• The big story today is a big scum fest. Basically, some scummy hackers hacked a scummy website for gross married people to hook up with other people they aren’t married to and released a bunch of information about the site’s clients. Some of those clients used city of Cincinnati or other public email addresses to register for the site. Now some scummy news organizations are rolling around in the scum shower and we’re all just super gross and implicated by all this.
Recently, hackers broke into dating site Ashley Madison, which helps folks have illicit affairs. The hackers released reams of information about who uses the site, and lo and behold, accounts were created with email addresses corresponding to a city police officer, fire fighter and sewer worker. Other accounts with local public ties include one with an email address from someone in the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Cincinnati Public Schools and one from Kenton County Schools.
This smells fishy to me, though. Who is dumb enough to use their work email for this kind of thing? Further, is it really in the public interest to know who is trying to sleep with whom? Just use your private email address so we don’t have to hear about it, right? This whole gross thing is why I don’t want to get married, use the Internet, or really deal with people in any other way whatsoever. Thanks guys.
• The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, which as its name suggests, is a giant business association here in the state, yesterday voted to oppose ResponsibleOhio’s marijuana legalization constitutional amendment. The OCC is citing workplace safety concerns as the reason for its opposition. The organization is another big opponent of the constitutional amendment, which voters are set to approve or deny in November. ResponsibleOhio’s proposal would legalize weed in Ohio and create 10 marijuana farms throughout the state owned by the group’s investors. No other commercial growers would be permitted, though a small amount of marijuana could be grown for personal use with a special license. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the Ohio Manufacturer’s Association and a number of other large organizations have come out in opposition of the effort. Meanwhile, many statewide unions and other organizations and public figures have come out in support of the proposal. It’s shaping up to be a big battle right up until the ballot. You can read our whole rundown here.
• If I told you that someone you know was trying to illegally buy drugs overseas in order to kill people, would you be alarmed? I guess that depends on who you roll with. If you roll with the State of Ohio, for instance, it might not be news to you at all. The federal Food and Drug Administration has said not so fast to the state’s plan to import drugs from other countries so it can resume executing people. The FDA says Ohio’s plan to obtain sodium thiopental, which it can’t get in the U.S., is illegal.
The state’s plan has been necessitated by U.S. companies’ refusal to supply the necessary drugs for executions and by a highly-problematic 2014 execution here that used a replacement two-drug cocktail. That combination caused convicted killer Dennis McGuire to snort and gasp during his execution. It took him more than 26 minutes to die using the replacement drug cocktail, and similar combinations have caused other, sometimes gruesome, irregularities in executions in other states. After McGuire’s execution, the state placed a moratorium on carrying out the death penalty until it can secure more humane ways to execute inmates. There are currently no executions planned this year, but the state has 21 slated starting next year and stretching into 2019.
• It’s a good thing Ohio Gov. John Kasich isn’t running for king of America. If he was, teachers could kiss their lounges goodbye. Kasich made that strangely aggressive statement yesterday during an education forum in New Hampshire, a vital early primary state as Kasich battles with the hordes of GOP presidential hopefuls for a national look at the nomination. Kasich told an audience on the panel that if he were in charge, teachers wouldn’t have lounges where “they sit together and worry about ‘woe is us.’ ” Kasich went on to praise the work teachers do, but said teacher’s unions create an environment of fear and scare educators into thinking their wages and benefits will be taken away. Huh. Maybe it’s the low wages, high work hours, constant testing and uncertainty about funding that is playing into that mindset, but yeah, you’re probably right. Having a lounge to sit in definitely plays into the fear factor somehow. Next up: All teachers must eat in their cars at lunch time and not talk to anyone else at all.
But back to Mission: Impossible 5. The high-octane action flick is a blast to the very past of its origins. The first Mission: Impossible arrived nearly 20 years ago. Ethan Hunt, the uncannily able, righteously insubordinate agent of the IMF (that’s the Impossible Missions Force) is as heroic as ever in huge thanks to none other than Tom Cruise. Cruise is his usual self — sharp as they come, quipping one-liners and putting his ass on the line for the old-fashioned Hollywood thrill of watching someone do drastically dangerous things as we watch from the comfort of a cushioned theater seat, throw popcorn at our faces and slurp on our sodas.
But Hunt is not without his team, and his team is a well-rounded crew both in what they contribute to Hunt and what the respective actors contribute to the chemistry. Simon Pegg gives us the silly, sarcastic surveillance wiz Benji Dunn. Jeremy Renner gives us the seriously stressed IMF Field Operations Director William Brandt. Rebecca Ferguson is the mysterious secret ally to Hunt, who holds the key between the IMF and their most dangerous enemies, known only as the Syndicate.
Together the team works from Washington, London, Paris, Vienna and Casablanca in their desperate attempts to thwart what seems like an unstoppable force of cruel international intentions. Along the way, we get Ethan Hunt and Co. in their finest form. They race through tunnels and alleys and mountainsides by foot and by car and by motorcycle. They infiltrate high-security premises with masks and soft steps and deep-water diving. They keep us laughing, on the edge of our seats and constantly wondering, “How can they get out of this mess?”
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation lies in its star, the Undeniable One, Mr. Cruise. But perhaps the most important piece of M:I–RO’s meticulously crafted Hollywood formula is its story, script and direction, all of which were crafted and brought to life by Christopher McQuarrie, with story assistance from Drew Pearce (set to write the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot).
McQuarrie’s expertise at the typewriter is as evident now as it was when he penned the Bryan Singer-directed, Academy Award-winning screenplay for 1995’s The Usual Suspects. No line is wasted. When viewers aren’t chuckling, we’re learning about the Syndicate — who they are, what they want, how Hunt might be able to stop them. Above all, McQuarrie knows how to paint Cruise as a charming lead. McQuarrie has written three other scripts (Valkyrie, Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow) that have featured Cruise as the lead man.
And the charm is what drives the film at the end of the day. Because we’ve all seen Mission: Impossible before. We’ve all seen Tom Cruise save the day (practically every time we see him, actually). We’ve all seen explosions and motorcycle races and we’ve all heard big resounding chords played on horn sections as high-flying stunts are performed on-screen. So what makes this time around so special, perhaps the best Mission Hunt has seen in his five-installment, 20-year span? It’s something difficult to describe.
What sets M:I 5 apart from so many other stupid Hollywood blockbusters is its ability to keep us constantly on our toes, unsure of whether we might be laughing at a surprise punch-line or gawking at a dangerous stunt or discovering some top-secret information. Rogue Nation accomplishes that rare, perhaps unprecedented feat of taking a Hollywood franchise beyond its own limits without uprooting its foundation in its fifth installment. Like the Fast & Furious franchise, the Mission: Impossible universe seems to only get more and more fun as each installment finds its way from studio back-lots and extravagant shooting locations to the cinema houses. It is a brilliantly young-at-heart balancing act that buoys the end result upwards toward Hollywood awesomeness in a silver-screen summer that has been sorely lacking in good old-fashioned fun.
Good morning y’all. I hope your weekend was fantastic and your summer is winding down nicely. Here’s the news today.
Former employees of now-shuttered Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar at The Banks have filed a lawsuit claiming the bar’s management purposely concealed the fact that the bar was closing and issued paychecks that later bounced. The bar closed July 16 due to unpaid rent two days after the MLB All-Star Game. Employees filing the class action suit say they were given no notice of the closure and that the Chase Bank account that their last paychecks were issued from is empty. Representatives for the bar, which is part of a nationwide chain, have not responded to requests for comment on the closure or the lawsuit. The Cincinnati location and others across the country have been subject to a number of lawsuits.
• A controversial marijuana legalization effort just got more opposition. ResponsibleOhio recently received confirmation that its proposed amendment to the state constitution will be on the November ballot. Now the group is working to rally its supporters even as powerful opposition emerges. Both conservative officials including State Auditor David Yost, other legalization efforts like Ohioans to End Prohibition and others have come out against ResponsibleOhio’s plan, which would legalize marijuana but limit commercial production to 10 grow sites owned by the group’s investors. Now, a powerful trade group is also opposing the plan. The Ohio Manufacturer’s Association says it opposes the proposed amendment, citing possible workplace safety issues and the plan’s creation of what it calls a monopoly. ResponsibleOhio’s Ian James has called those concerns “fear mongering.”
• Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted on Friday struck down charter proposals in three Ohio counties that would have outlawed fracking there. Athens, Medina and Fulton Counties were mulling the charter amendments, which, if approved by voters, would have prohibited the drilling techniques. But Husted says those charter amendments violate the state’s constitution and will not be enforceable. The power to regulate fracking lies with the state, Husted argues, and not with local or county governments. Hm. I thought conservatives liked small government and hated state control of things?
• Welp, personal financial disclosures are in for U.S. Senate candidates looking to woo Ohio voters, and of course we’re all sitting in the edge of our seats like it’s the last damned episode of Serial or something. Err, at least I am. You don’t get a huge buzz from checking out financial disclosures? Does sitting Sen. Rob Portman have enough cash to float the yacht he could purchase with his cash? What about former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who was once one of the least-wealthy members of Congress? Has he upped his personal cash flow game? And how is hometown upstart and Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld stacking up when it comes to, uh, stacking up?
Well, this piece has the answers for you. Portman is worth somewhere between $8 and $20 million — pretty respectable, though not top Senate-earner material. Strickland is worth somewhere between $300,000 and $700,000. Nothing to sneeze at, but he’d probably get picked on by the other kids in the Senate because his Nikes aren’t new enough. Meanwhile, Sittenfeld says he’s worth exactly $329,178. About half of that is in retirement accounts, because, you know, that’s gonna happen soon for the 30-year-old wiz kid. So wait, this guy’s younger than me and his retirement accounts have more in them than my bank account (by a long shot). Hold on, I need to go cry somewhere for a few minutes over my less than stellar life choices. Reason number 973 why I’m not running for Senate.
• Speaking of running for things, we have a guy running our state who is also running for president. Just in case you hadn’t heard about that. Gov. John Kasich has done pretty well for himself since last week’s first GOP primary debate, gaining some much-needed national attention for his campaign and even boosting his poll numbers in pivotal primary state New Hampshire. Kasich is now running third there behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush and real estate dude Donald Trump. Kasich has also grabbed a couple key endorsements, including one from Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. It’s a sign that Kasich is making headway in his quest for the presidency, though wider polling shows he’ s still got a way to go and is far down the list of national GOP favorites.
• Finally, if all this politics stuff makes you want to drink, you’re not alone. A new report from the Ohio Department of Commerce Sunday revealed that Ohioans set a record for liquor sales last year, buying nearly $1 billion of the stuff. Most of the 7 percent uptick from previous years comes from folks buying fancier, more expensive booze, not necessarily because people are grabbing five bottles of Boone's Farm instead of four.
That's it for me. Tweet at me or email news tips, the best taco toppings, or your favorite flavor/combination of flavors of Boone's Farm. I like them all because I'm a journalist and that's how we roll.
Know Theatre’s Hundred Days is not running for 100 days. In fact, it has only seven more performances, so I urge you to get your tickets now if you haven’t seen it yet. (I say this in part because I’ve now heard from three acquaintances that they liked the show so much they’ve purchased tickets to go back to watch a devoted couple deal with a marriage that’s foreshortened by illness. So I’m sure some performances are getting very full.) David Lyman gave it a good review in the Enquirer, and I attached a Critic’s Pick to my CityBeat commentary, so we agree — and I suspect you might, too. Abigail and Shawn Bengson, the performers and creators of Hundred Days, are full of energy and passion, and their backup musicians are infected with the same spirit. Next Wednesday (July 19) is a free admission performance, which is likely to be very full. Tickets ($25 in advance): 513-300-5669
This is the final weekend for Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s very funny show, The Complete History of America (Abridged), featuring three very funny performers — Amanda McGee, Justin McCombs and Geoffrey Barnes. I don’t think you’ll leave the theater knowing more about American history, but you’ll understand our willingness to poke fun at ourselves and others. It has some moments that fall flat, but that’s to be expected in two hours of non-stop efforts at hilarity. When they hit it, the show is a laugh-out-loud riot. Final performance is Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets: 513-381-2273
Cincy Shakes’ FREE Shakespeare in the Park continues this weekend with performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Dunham Arts Center in West Price Hill (this one is actually an indoor performance) on Saturday at 2 p.m. and at Covington’s Linden Grove Cemetery on Sunday at 7 p.m. (Not that you want or need to drive to Portsmouth, Ohio, to see a performance, but the troupe is there tonight — showing just how far they’re willing to go to advance the cause of Shakespeare.)
I wish I could tell you that 9 to 5, the third musical in the inaugural season at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater, is as entertaining or well done as its predecessors, The Producers and 1776. But it isn’t. Nevertheless, based on the strength of the season so far and the novelty of going to a brand-new theater most of the tickets for this lightweight musical have already been snatched up. It’s based on a movie from the 1980s that featured Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. Parton’s countrified tunes, written for the musical not the movie (which did feature her hit song of the same title), are mildly entertaining, but the story is full of clichéd stereotypes about “working girls” who struggle to work with a chauvinistic boss. The real Parton makes a video appearance, but it’s not quite enough. Through Aug. 30. Tickets: 513-241-6550
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines.
• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld announced yesterday at a press conference at Lincoln Recreation Center in the West End that the city will be rolling out an eight week pilot program partnership between the city, the Cincinnati Police Department and the city's recreation centers to keep five of Cincinnati's recreation centers open longer hours and open up a Lower Price Hill school for community use. Starting this Saturday, the Bush, Evanston, Hirsch, Millvale and Price Hills recreation centers will be open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and will stay open until 9 p.m. on weekdays. Oyler School will start granting community members access to its facilities. The eight pilot program will cost $50,000 dollars with $25,000 coming from the city and another $25,000 from an anonymous private donor. At the end of its run, the program will be evaluated and possibly extended into other recreation centers and schools depending on its effectiveness.
Sittenfeld hinted that part of the push for the program has come from a recent spike in gun violence over the past few months, saying, "part of the reason we feel a lot of urgency on this is that everybody knows that summer can be a little bit hotter time of year, and just not in terms of the temperature."
• Mayor John Cranley is also out and about trying to reduce the city's crime wave. Cranley was spotted last week at a barbecue put together by Cincinnati Works in East Westwood, one of the highest crime neighborhoods in the city, talking with community leaders about their concerns. In June, the city pushed out an ambitious 90 day plan to reduce citywide shootings by 5 percent and overall crime by 10 percent, but some priorities have been dropped since the July shooting of Officer Sonny Kim, including curfew enforcement.
• A Xavier University basketball player has filed a complaint of sexual abuse against former assistant coach, Bryce McKey. The 20-year-old player alleged that last May McKey invited her over to his northern Kentucky home, gave her several alcoholic beverages, fondled her twice and then tried to kiss her as she left. The player also claims that McKey tried to offer her money to not file a complaint in the days that followed. McKey, who has since left Xavier for a position an assistant coach for the
University of Maryland's women's basketball team, has been suspended
indefinitely from his new job and is scheduled to be arraigned this
morning at the Kenton County Courthouse. He could face up to 90 days in jail or a fine of $250 dollars if convicted.
• A Cincinnati-based state Senator has introduced a bill that would keep cops from being able to pull over motorists just for missing a front license plate. The lack of a front plate lead to a traffic stop last month in Mount Auburn in which unarmed 43-year-old Samuel Dubose was shot by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing. Sen Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) has proposed a bill making the lack of a front license place a secondary, rather than primary offense. So in order to be ticketed for it, a motorist must have been pulled over for another offense. Thomas, who is a former police officer, has titled the bill the "Dubose was Beacon Act."
• The Federal Railroad Administration is funding a regional study that could potentially increase train service between Cincinnati and Chicago. The FRA is planning to announce a study of a region-wide service that could increase service between the two cities. The Midwest and Southeast are the two regions chosen by Congress to spend $2.8 million on studying and planning rail networks. The federal money will flow through the Ohio Department of Transportation. That's wonderful news for rail advocates. Gov. John Kasich, who is not much of a fan of commuter rail, cancelled the Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland Amtrak route in 2011, a project which had $400 million from the federal government.
• Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign has just announced the former secretary of state and Democratic prez hopeful will visit Cincinnati next month. Clinton will swing through the area Sept. 10 for a fundraising event and campaign stop. Clinton so far has been the easy frontrunner for the Democratic nod, but she's faced some opposition of late from Vermont's U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has campaigned on a more left-leaning, populist message.