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by Nick Swartsell 03.04.2016 85 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
newyork_donaldtrump-wikicommons

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati white nationalist identified in Trump rally controversy; Cincy gets high-tech learning opportunities; Cleveland set to purchase 2,000 sets of riot gear for RNC

Hey all. It’s never a good news day when you start out a morning news update with the phrase “vocal white nationalist and Cincinnati resident…” but here we are.

Vocal white nationalist and Cincinnati resident Matthew Heimbach has identified himself as one of the participants in a heated altercation at a recent rally for GOP presidential primary candidate Donald Trump in Louisville, Ky. between black activists and members of Heimbach’s group the Traditionalist Youth Network. A 17-year-old protester has filed a police complaint against another member of that group, a woman he says assaulted him and other protesters. Videos of the event show Heimbach and others pushing and insulting a black 
female protester at the event. Heimbach has made statements on his social media accounts admitting he took part in the incidents, but also claims that anti-Trump protesters started the physical altercations. Heimbach has been profiled as a white-power extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center and has expressed anti-Semitic views via the Traditionalist Youth Network. Trump rallies have drawn attention recently due to racial tensions and forced removal of anti-Trump protesters. 

• Cincinnati State Technical and Community College has won a state grant to teach more students about cutting-edge technologies like 3D printing. That move comes as the technology continues to expand, with large companies in the region like General Electric embracing so-called additive manufacturing as the “next chapter in the industrial revolution,” as GE puts it. Meanwhile, as the technology becomes more widespread, companies are having a hard time finding qualified workers to operate the complex equipment involved, making Cincinnati State’s move to offer more courses in the industry very timely.  

• Here’s another high-tech learning opportunity for Cincinnatians. A new coding school called The Iron Yard is opening up a campus here in the city, its first in Ohio. The school, which currently runs 22 locations across the country, offers intensive 12-week classes designed to get students ready to take on entry-level coding jobs for backend and frontend development. The school hasn’t settled on a location yet, but is aiming to start classes in May.

• Cincinnati is one of the top cities in the country for craft brewing, according to a new ranking by Fortune Magazine. The magazine recently praised the city’s under-the-radar brewing scene, highlighting big names like Rhinegeist and MadTree.

• As you may have been able to predict, Cincinnati is becoming a hotbed of political yammering these days. MSNBC has been filming presidential primary political commentary from Over-the-Rhine's Coffee Emporium (I know this because one of their anchors accidentally pushed me into another patron while I was waiting for my coffee). Last month none other than former POTUS Bill Clinton was in town stumping for Hillary. And now, the Queen City will get a visit from Vice President Joe Biden, who will appear at a fundraiser for U.S. Senate hopeful Ted Strickland. Strickland still has to make it through the Democratic Primary, where he’s facing two Cincinnatians — Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and Kelli Prather — but you wouldn’t know it from the timing of the fundraiser Biden is planning to appear at. It’s scheduled for March 22, a week after Ohio’s March 15 primary. If you’ve got $500, you can meet Biden at a breakfast reception. That better be an all-you-can-eat breakfast, and there better be some bacon and mimosas.

• Data shows that the Brent Spence Bridge has seen less traffic in recent years, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be replaced, a story in the Cincinnati Business Courier says. The traffic reduction has resulted from drivers taking alternate routes to avoid construction on I75, according to the Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana Regional Council of Governments. But engineers say the bridge is still antiquated and over capacity and will need to be replaced. That’s a $2.6 billion project that has been slow in gaining traction.

• Let's cross that dangerously-antiquated bridge for a minute and get down to the Bluegrass State for some dangerously antiquated thinking, shall we? It seems Kentucky lawmakers are still trying to fight same-sex marriage. One of 83 bills recently filed in the Kentucky House ahead of the term's filing deadline would cause the state's constitution to stipulate that matrimony is between one man and one woman. That bill was filed by State Rep. Joe Fischer of Fort Thomas. Fischer also filed a 454-page bill designed to redefine the parameters of marriage, presumably in a way that would block same-sex marriages as being recognized as equal to "traditional" marriage. This dead-horse beating seems like a great use of a lawmaker's time.

• You've heard about how bad Flint, Mich.'s lead poisoning situation is. A new article in The New York Times brings up a provocative reality — that Cleveland's is worse. At its peak last year, 7 percent of children in Flint had over-concentrations of lead in their blood, the article reports. In Cleveland, that number is more than 14 percent. Keep an eye on this.

• Speaking of Cleveland, the city has filed plans to purchase 2,000 sets of riot gear for the coming Republican National Convention. The funds for the gear come from a federal grant specifically for security around the RNC. Seems... ominous.

• Finally, the last four remaining GOP presidential primary candidates debated last night in Detroit. The D in Detroit scares me more than anything, but the D doesn’t stand for Donald. It doesn’t stand for Debate. It stands for… uh, a particular slang term for male anatomy, the relative sizes of which the candidates discussed last night. No, really. That’s a pretty good indication of the tenor of the night, during which very few substantive policy points were debated. Ohio Gov. John Kasich tried to act like the dad at his teenage son’s first keg party, while frontrunner Donald Trump stumbled over even the most basic answers to questions and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz kicked at his ankles the whole night. Good stuff. Despite the complete fiasco and brutal sniping between the candidates, all agreed afterward that they would support whoever wins the nomination, even if it's Donald Trump.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 03.03.2016 86 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
voting

Morning News and Stuff

Hamilton County seeks extra help for primary polls; Hotel Covington set to open this summer; Supreme Court hears oral arguments on controversial Texas abortion law

Good morning! Here are the headlines today.

The Ohio primary is less than two weeks away. Are you ready for it? Because it looks like Hamilton County isn't. The Hamilton County Board of Elections is looking for 300 extra poll workers for the election on March 15. This primary is expected to draw in a higher turnout than in previous election due to the increasingly tense bloody battle between Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and the six remaining GOP candidates, one of which is Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Elections director Sherry Poland said the extra workers help to cover for any last minute cancellations from other workers. They could also be useful if last-minute issues arise, as they did during the November 2015 election. During the last election, tablets used for check-in malfunctioned, leaving some registered voters off the log. A judge ordered Hamilton County polls to remain open longer causing unexpected extended hours for workers. 

• The multi-million dollar transformation of Covington's former city hall into a boutique hotel called Hotel Covington is nearly complete. The building is located on Madison Avenue and was also the former home of Coppin's department store. It is set to open this summer as a 114 room hotel with 4,700 square feet of meeting space, a ballroom, boardroom, library and restaurant. Rooms will feature touches like vintage-style clothing racks instead of an enclosed closet as a nod to the building's previous occupant. 

• U.S. News and World Report ranked Cincinnati at number 37 on its list of the top 100 places to live. The magazine creates the list based on the amount of individuals who want to live there, the strength of the job market, the quality of life and the overall value. Cincinnati was the highest ranked Ohio city, beating Columbus (50), Dayton (69) Toledo (75) and rival Cleveland, which barely made the list at number 87. 

• The Supreme Court heard the oral arguments yesterday in a major case that could affect Ohio abortion laws. The case is based off of a 2013 Texas law passed by a mostly Republican legislature requiring doctors performing abortions to have hospital admitting privileges and for abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. Republicans behind the law say its about improving the clinics' health standards. The clinics the are challenging the law say its strict requirements are medically unnecessary and have forced half of the state's abortion clinics to close. The Supreme Court is ruling on whether Texas' requirements violates the ruling from a 1992 case that says states cannot impose medically unnecessary rules imposing an "undue" burden on a women's right to access abortion.

Under Ohio Governor and GOP presidential candidate John Kasich, Ohio has passed similar abortion restrictions that could be overturned by the Supreme Court's ruling expected in June. In 2013, Kasich signed a provision prohibiting clinics requiring to secure patient-transfer agreement with a private hospital no further than 30 miles away. The provision has nearly forced the two last remaining abortion providers in southwest Ohio to lose their licenses, which would make Cincinnati the largest metropolitan area without access to abortion.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.02.2016 87 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
tedstrickland

Morning News and Stuff

Officers accused of covering up CPD sergeant crash appear in court; Strickland scores pres, VP endorsements in Senate run; Trump, Clinton win big on Super Tuesday

Two Cincinnati police officers accused of covering up a fellow officer’s auto accident while he was allegedly under the influence appeared in Hamilton County court yesterday. You can see the original CityBeat story here, but the main points: In March 2015, Sgt. Andrew Mitchell crashed his car along West McMicken Street while he was off-duty. Instead of investigating that accident, prosecutors allege responding officer Jason Cotterman drove Mitchell to CPD District 5 headquarters, ignoring a witness who said Mitchell appeared to be under the influence. Prosecutors also allege another officer, Sgt. Richard Sulfsted, oversaw Mitchell’s removal from the scene in an attempt to protect the fellow officer. The trial, overseen by Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Josh Berkowitz, involves charges of dereliction of duty and obstructing justice for Cotterman and Sulfsted. Berkowitz is expected to spend about a week on the trial and will issue a verdict. We’ll continue to update as the case goes on.

• A crowd of more than 100 showed up to Peaslee Neighborhood Center in Over-the-Rhine last night for a wide-ranging discussion from academics, neighborhood residents, housing advocates and others who have lived in, worked in or studied the quickly changing neighborhood. Presenters provided wider historical and political context for recent heated debates about housing prices, displacement of some residents and cultural change in the neighborhood. Some presenters held an activity around a recent housing study that shows that while the neighborhood’s housing has become more economically diverse between 2000 and 2015, 73 percent of the neighborhood’s most affordable rental units became unavailable to low-income renters during that time. You can hear recordings of all the presenters here.

• Just down the street in OTR, the city of Cincinnati held an event at the Woodward Theater discussing possible changes to Liberty Street, which bisects the neighborhood. The road is wide — some crosswalks across it span 70 feet, double the norm in the neighborhood — and has a high traffic volume. That, some say, is impacting the neighborhood’s walkability and keeping its northern section from experiencing development that has taken off in the southern half. The city last night released results of a survey of neighborhood residents, who seem to prefer either two options that would narrow Liberty significantly as well as adding bike lanes and other changes.

• This is cool. A sustainability group and cooperative in Price Hill has plans to open up a new community center, homesteading store and bar to serve as a spot for community-building in the neighborhood. Enright Eco Village has purchased the former Paradise Lounge at West Eighth Street and Enright Avenue in West Price Hill and is currently rehabbing it for its yet-to-be-named store. Organizers of the store hope to host public events there and foresee opening it this summer.

• Well, this is a big one. Or two. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have thrown their endorsements to former Ohio Governor and U.S. Senate hopeful Ted Strickland in his Democratic primary bid to take on incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman. The big endorsement comes as Strickland tangles with Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld for the party’s nomination. Strickland is definitely the favorite in the race — he polls well above Sittenfeld and fellow contender Kelli Prather, also of Cincinnati — but that hasn’t stopped Sittenfeld from hitting him hard on gun issues and other concerns. Obama and Biden’s endorsement is a sign that Democrats are doubling down on efforts to re-win control of the Senate in 2016 and see known entities like Strickland as the way to do that.

• OK. Super Tuesday. I’m going to be quick. On the GOP side of the presidential primary election fest that went down yesterday across 11 states, Trump won seven states, walloping rivals U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who won three, and U.S. Sen Marco Rubio, who won one. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and surgeon Ben Carson won… zero. That’s sent election-watchers on both sides of the aisle into all sorts of fits as Trump’s path to the nomination becomes more and more likely. On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton safely coasted past Bernie Sanders, taking seven primary states to his four. You can see the commanding leads the front runners are taking in the delegate counts here.

• Speaking of The Donald, he was in Ohio briefly yesterday for a rally ahead of the state’s March 15 primary. He talked a lot about immigrants and making America great again, both topics he seems to be fixated upon. He didn’t, however,say much at all about Kasich, a sure sign Trump doesn’t see the Ohio guv as much of a threat. Kasich has polled behind Trump among GOP voters in the state and has just 28 delegates so far to Trump’s 285.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 03.01.2016 88 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
metro plus bus

Morning News and Stuff

Shooting at Butler County school injures 2 students; Cincinnati VA center replaces outed chief of staff; presidential candidates gear up for Super Tuesday

Happy Super Tuesday, Cincinnati. Here are your morning headlines.

A shooting at Madison Junior/Senior High School in Butler County yesterday left two teenagers with non-life threatening injuries. According to witnesses, yesterday morning around 11 a.m., freshman James Austin Hancock started firing a gun in the lunchroom. Hancock luckily did not fatally injure anyone and reportedly threw the gun away before deputies arrived and arrested him. He is facing several felony accounts, including attempted murder. The two students who were shot are expected to make a full recovery. The event rocked Madison, a town of 9,000 people where the elementary, middle and high schools are all located next to one another. School officials have cancelled classes for Tuesday.

• As if the chaos in Madison wasn't enough yesterday, another student at nearby Middletown High School was also arrested for bringing a handgun to school. This event was much less dire than the one at Madison. There were no shootings, threats, injuries or big disruptions to the school day, and the student was arrested on unspecified charges. This incident at the high school follows another one earlier this month when a 15-year-old was arrested after officials linked him with a note containing death threats and racial slurs.

• The Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center has named Dr. Ralph Panos as the new acting chief of staff. Panos, who is the center's chief of medicine, replaces Dr. Barbara Temeck, who was outed from the position from by the feds last Thursday following a Feb. 2016 federal investigation that found her guilty of prescribing medication to another VA employee's family member. Her license does not allow her to prescribe medication privately outside the VA. Temeck remains at the clinic until the Department of Veterans Affairs announces what further action it will take, but she has been taken off of patient care duty and has had a her hospital privileges suspended in the meantime. VA network director Jack Hetrick also submitted his notice of retirement on Feb. 25 after the federal government also recommended he be removed from his position. Temeck was reportedly prescribing Hetrick's wife medication.

• Details about the apartments at the former School of Creative and Performing Arts building are finally out. The Alumni Lofts will hold 142 apartments ranging from 550 to 2,200 square feet in size. Rent will cost between $800 and $1,200 a month. The complex will host an open house from 5 to 7 p.m. on March 16 for anyone curious to see what a school-turned-apartment complex looks like. The event's Facebook page already has one commenter wondering what it would be like to live in her old school building. Leasing will start this month, and new residents will be able to move in this September.

• A new study found Cincinnati's residents receiving rental assistance from HUD to help make their cost of living a little more affordable are still facing economic hurdles in terms of access to transit. The study by the University of Texas and the University of Utah that evaluated more than 18,000 households nationwide on HUD rent subsidies found nearly half these recipients are spending more than 15 percent of their household budgets on transit. Among cities with the highest rate of rental properties receiving federal assistance, Cincinnati ranks 11th highest for transit costs--sandwiched between Cleveland at number 10 and Columbus at number 12. Wonder if that has anything to do with the state of Ohio's incredibly low spending on transit? The study found that residents of more sprawling areas like San Antonio, Houston and Pittsburgh tend to be hit harder with transit costs. HUD generally ranks housing as affordable if rent is less than 30 percent of a household's budget. However, it fails to calculate in transportation costs.

• There's still two weeks to go until Ohio's primary, but local political junkies can get their biggest hit yet as they watch the results of Super Tuesday roll in. Voters in 12 states go to the polls today, and soon we'll see just how concrete Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's leads are for their parties' nominations. Political analysts are predicting that Trump is expected to win nearly all of the states, possibly only really having to worry about losing Sen. Ted Cruz's home state of Texas. The race between the Democratic contenders Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders should be a little more interesting. Clinton is expected to fare well in the southern states like Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas with high African-American populations, a group that favors Clinton based on her success in the South Carolina Democratic primary. Sanders will likely have more success in the whiter states of Minnesota, Massachusetts and Vermont, his home state. Either way, as this race gets more intense, so do our candidates and some of the things flying out of their mouths. So pay attention, Ohio!

Any story tips go to nkrebs@citybeat.com.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 02.29.2016 89 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

City, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful at odds over blight data; activists march against Murray, Gaston deaths; Sittenfeld picks up newspaper endorsement

Hey all! Hope your weekend was a good one. Here’s your news today.

Recent funding shifts by Cincinnati city administration away from a prominent anti-blight organization have caused a rift between the city and the group’s supporters. Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black earlier this month informed City Council and Mayor John Cranley that he would be redirecting $100,000 from nonprofit Keep Cincinnati Beautiful to private contracting group Four Evergreen because the latter completes blight mitigation work cheaper and more quickly. But supporters of Keep Cincinnati Beautiful contest that claim, saying that the city’s data is inaccurate and that the group has actually reached its targets at a lower cost per lot.

Keep Cincinnati Beautiful chairman Brad Lindner, CEO of United Dairy Farmers, fired off a strongly worded letter to the city condemning the move and a Cincinnati Enquirer story that reported the city’s data without confirming it with Keep Cincinnati Beautiful. Lindner said the purportedly erroneous data was “negligently presented to the public” and called the Enquirer’s reporting “sensationalized and mean spirited.” The paper says the data was presented in a Cincinnati City Council meeting, where representatives from Keep Cincinnati Beautiful were present but did not contest it. Enquirer leaders say the paper will continue to look into the issue.

• At least 40 racial justice advocates gathered yesterday in West Price Hill and Westwood to protest the deaths of Melvin Murray, Jr. and Paul Gaston after encounters with Cincinnati police. Gaston died Feb. 17 after he was shot multiple times by three CPD officers. CPD officials say he was reaching for a realistic-looking pellet gun in his waistband at the time. Murray died in a car accident following a pursuit by police. Murray’s family said officers in that pursuit failed to render aid following the accident and might have rear-ended Murray’s car, which was demolished after the incident.

Protesters at yesterday’s event gathered in West Price Hill, near the site of Murray’s accident, and then marched to Western Hills, near where Gaston died. There, they observed three minutes of silence symbolizing the three hours they say Gaston lay in the street after his shooting. Organizers are pushing for the dismissal and indictment of officers involved in both incidents. City officials say the officers acted appropriately in both situations, though they did condemn dash cam audio of the officers in Murray’s chase calling him a “dumbass” and other insults.

• The Queen City has landed on a dubious list, ranking 10th most distressed city in the country on a new list by The New York Times. The ranking was devised from seven factors, including percentage of adults who are employed, the percentage of adults who have a high school diploma, the city’s poverty rate, housing vacancy rate and other factors. Cleveland was the nation’s most distressed city, and Toledo also made the list at number four.

• With Music Hall’s major renovations just a few months away, the project’s leaders are showing the public just what kind of transformation they’re envisioning for the Cincinnati landmark. Those changes include a new lounge area behind the auditorium, fewer but wider and more comfortable seats, a more luminous lobby area and restoration of windows on the building’s façade that are currently bricked up. Those changes, along with many others, are projected to cost $135 million. State tax credits, the city and private donors have stepped up to cover most of that cost, but $5 million remains to be raised to fully fund the project.

• Finally, U.S. Senate hopeful and Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld has picked up a powerful endorsement in his underdog Democratic primary race against former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. The Cleveland Plain Dealer, one of the state’s biggest newspapers, has endorsed Sittenfeld over Strickland, saying the former is more specific about policy proposals and has shown a willingness to engage with important issues that Strickland hasn’t. You can check out the paper’s weird slideshow endorsement here. Earlier this month, Sittenfeld also picked up an endorsement from former Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste, a prominent Democrat.

Strickland still leads Sittenfeld by a wide margin in almost all polls and is currently neck and neck with incumbent U.S. Sen. Rob Portman in polling around the general election. But Sittenfeld’s campaign points to the endorsements as signs his campaign is picking up steam ahead of the state’s March 15 primary.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 02.26.2016 92 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Department of Veterans Affairs removes two top officials at Cincy's VA clinic; CPS earns failing grades from the Department of Education; Kasich holds on to his presidential bid after poor results in primaries

Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines.

Two top officials at Cincinnati's VA Medical Center have landed in hot water with the The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. On Thursday, The feds removed Dr. Barbara Temeck, the chief of staff for the medical center, from her position. Officials from the department also proposed that Jack Hetrick, director of the regional Veterans Integrated Service Network, be removed from his position. Hetrick submitted his notice for retirement Thursday after he was informed of the department's proposal. The actions come in response to the results of an investigation by the VA Office of the Medical Inspector and Office of Accountability. The preliminary results found Temeck was referring veterans to clinics outside the VA as a way to cut costs for the clinic. The move resulted in many veterans reporting issues with the quality of care from other clinics and difficulties navigating the bureaucracy that came along with it.  

• Ohio's Department of Education released its state report cards for each school district Thursday, and based on its report card results, if Cincinnati Public Schools were a bratty 16-year-old, it'd be grounded for sure. The report cards rank districts based on students' results for state tests, district spending of public money and how well the school addressed achievement gaps for different groups of students. According to the scores, CPS is falling far behind in its graduation rates and how it handles students with disabilities, earning "Fs" in these categories. It is doing well with the gifted kids, however, earning an A in this category. Overall, the district got 2 "As," 1 "B," 1 "C," 1 "D" and 5 "Fs." But even though CPS's scores appear to be very sub-par, some have questioned the relevance of the information, which is based off of a standardized test the state no longer uses.

• The Tracie Hunter saga continues. Supporters behind former Hamilton County are claiming that officials have allowed critical computer evidence in her case to be destroyed. At a press conference Thursday, they claimed that special prosecutors or juvenile court officials allowed one computer with the vital evidence to be erased while mishandling the other computer's hard drive and called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the issue. Hunter was convicted in 2014 on a felony charge of mishandling confidential documents. She recently lost an appeal on the conviction and has asking the state's Supreme Court to review the case.

• Gov. John Kasich has held on tightly to his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, and he's not giving up any time soon. He told a crowd of his supporters on Wednesday that he will not be dropping out of the race. But political experts are speculating on how long Kasich will actually stay in following poor results in Nevada and South Carolina during the past week. Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges says he might do better in Mississippi, Virginia and Vermont, the neighboring state of New Hampshire, where he came in second behind Donald Trump in the state's GOP primary. But it's still going to be a long, difficult and unlikely road for Kasich to actually catch up to frontrunner Trump.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 02.25.2016 93 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Harry Black

Morning News and Stuff

City manager: MSD delays could cost millions; Bill Murray in Cincy; court overturns ban on false statements in campaigns

Hey, hey all. Here’s the news today.

Is an ongoing argument between the city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County about to cost users of the region’s Metropolitan Sewer District millions? That’s what City Manager Harry Black says. Black fired the next salvo in an ongoing tussle between the two governments yesterday when he announced that delays in a $3 billion ongoing sewer revamp ordered by federal courts could lead to a $1.4 million fine for MSD. Black laid blame for those delays on county officials, who recently filed in federal court alleging the city was in violation of a 2014 court order because it was ignoring county requests. Black says the county has been too slow to act in approving projects that need to be launched. County commissioners contend that's inaccurate, and that the city is to blame for the delays.

• More stuff about pipes: Following the incredibly alarming revelations that the water supply of Flint, Mich. has been giving residents there lead poisoning, concerns have been raised about the water supply in Cincinnati. While the city has been steadily replacing lead pipes for decades, and a Flint-scale lead panic seems unlikely, there are places where residents are more likely to have lead pipes on their private property leading into their homes. Here’s a handy map of places with the highest concentration of the pipes.

• Philanthropic group People’s Liberty, which is funded by the Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation, announced the next recipients of its $100,000 grants yesterday. Brandon Black of Silverton will get one of those grants to launch a home rehab and repair apprenticeship program between Millennials and Baby Boomers. Northside’s Chris Glass will spend a year documenting Cincinnati neighborhoods with photography and creating programing around his work. The two were picked from 116 applicants and their fellowships will start April 4. People’s Liberty focuses on grants to individuals with change-making ideas in the Cincinnati area.

• I’m an idiot. Here’s why. A bit ago, a friend called me saying he had some extra tickets to the Xavier game last night and wondered if I wanted them. I’m a UC guy. I said no. Now, leaving out the fact that I could have sold those tickets, there’s another reason I’m really bummed. Bill Murray was at that game. I could have met Bill Murray. It’s not a huge surprise — his son Luke Murray is a coach for the team, but still. Oh, also, Xavier is in the middle of one heck of a season and won against No. 1 Villanova, which is nice and all, I guess.

• The following should make campaigning in Ohio easier for serial fabulists like a certain reality TV star running for president. A federal appeals court yesterday knocked down an Ohio law banning people from knowingly making false statements in campaign advertising. The 6th Circuit Court agreed with a lower court that said that the law violates citizens’ constitutional right to free speech. The case arose from a suit by anti-abortion group the Susan B. Anthony List, which in 2010 got in hot water with the Ohio Elections Commission after it made statements linking President Barack Obama to abortion in misleading ways.

• A lot of folks are calling on Ohio Gov. John Kasich to get out of the GOP presidential primary after disappointing results in the last few states where party members have laid down their votes. Kasich is running behind Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz consistently, and establishment types think he’s siphoning valuable votes away from their only viable candidate at this point (that’s Rubio, btw). But at least one senior GOPer thinks Kasich should hang in there: former U.S. Sen. George Voinovich. The popular former senator predicted yesterday that Kasich would win Ohio’s March 15 primary and responded to questions about whether Kasich should bow out with a “hell no.” Voinovich did give Kasich some pointers on sharpening up his message, but didn’t really provide any insight on ways the Kasich campaign could win other states besides Ohio, which is, uh, looking to be a challenge.

I’m out. I’m hitting up Lexington for a conference starting tomorrow. Any cool places worth checking out? Hit me: Twitter. E-mail.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 02.24.2016 94 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 94 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 95 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.

 
 

 

 

 
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