Good morning Cincy. Let’s talk about what’s been going on in the news the past few days.
The University of Cincinnati and city officials continue to work on a revised memorandum of understanding in regard to the university’s police force, officials for both organizations told Cincinnati City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee today. Following the July 19 shooting death of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose by UC police officer Ray Tensing, the city is working to fold UC’s police officers into Cincinnati’s collaborative agreement. That agreement, which establishes guidelines for training, community engagement and accountability for Cincinnati police officers, sprang up in the wake of civil unrest following the 2001 police shooting death of unarmed 19-year-old Timothy Thomas. Officials with UC and the city have said they hope to have a renewed memorandum of understanding by spring 2016. Until that time, UC officers are limited in their off-campus patrolling abilities. Following the DuBose shooting, campus activists have called for further actions to ensure racial equity within the university’s police force and the UC campus as a whole, many of which go beyond the city’s work to establish a new set of working agreements with the UC police department.
• It’s been a rough couple weeks for Wasson Way, the proposed bike path that would stretch 7.6 miles from Xavier University to Newtown, but there’s some good news ahead in the form of a state grant. Late last month, the federal government announced the project wouldn’t be receiving millions in Transit Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grants that could have gone a long way toward funding the $7 million to $11 million effort. Bike path advocates got more bad news last week when voters passed on Issue 22, a property tax increase charter amendment that Mayor John Cranley proposed to fund Wasson Way and a number of other projects. But late last week, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources approved a $500,000 grant to fund a portion of the path stretching two-thirds of a mile between Madison Road and Dana Avenue on the city’s East Side. Both Cincinnati City Council and private philanthropy groups are working to find additional funding for the path, which boosters tout as a way to spur economic development in the area.
• One project that won’t feel a negative impact from the Issue 22’s ballot failure is a proposed Ziegler Park redevelopment. That project passed another hurdle Friday when the Cincinnati Planning Commission approved plans for the park, which include a new pool, an extensive green space, a water feature and updates to basketball courts. Officials with 3CDC and the city say efforts to change up the park, located on Sycamore Street in Over-the-Rhine across from the former SCPA building, are going forward with federal tax credits and other funds and weren’t dependent on a possible $5 million windfall had the parks tax increase passed.
• City of Cincinnati officials have asked a county judge to declare vacant buildings owned by an out-of-town developer public nuisances and to hand control over the crumbling structures to a group who can fix them. Washington, D.C.-based 2414 Morgan Development, LLC owns 10 buildings in OTR and another in Avondale, all of which have significant code violations. The development group says it is working on the buildings and could have them up to code in as little as a month and a half. But the city says it’s been pressuring the group for months to fix the properties and that the buildings are serious hazards to the public and could mean injury or death for firefighters should one burst into flames.
• If you’re a fan of natural grocer and hipster joke punch line Whole Foods but you’re not a fan of spending half your paycheck on organic kale and a $50 juice cleanse kit, you’re gonna love this. According to Whole Foods financial reports, Cincinnati will be one of the first cities in the country to get a new, more value-priced concept called 365 by Whole Foods Market. The store, which will occupy an as-yet-unannounced location, will be smaller than the sprawling market at Rookwood Commons and will have lower-priced organic produce and other items. Other cities getting the new stores include Los Angeles, Austin, Houston, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., Bellevue, Wash., and Santa Monica, Calif. Cincinnati’s location is expected to open in 2017.
• Finally, we’re still talking about the Brent Spence Bridge and probably will be for some time. A proposed alternative to the antiquated bridge’s needed $2.6 billion revamp has been shrugged off as unrealistic by many officials, but it might still be on the table with the election of tea party Republican Matt Bevin as Kentucky governor. Basically, some Northern Kentucky business leaders opposed to the possibility of tolling on the Brent Spence to fund the multi-billion project have proposed… uh, another multi-billion-dollar project, the construction of a 68-mile bypass highway leaving I-75 in Springboro, Ohio and returning to the highway in Grant County, Kentucky. That project would require its own $100 million bridge over the Ohio River in addition to the high costs of building the highway itself.
Transportation policy experts say the construction of that bypass could take decades and cost billions, but Bevin has signaled he’s open to considering it as an option to reduce stress on the overcrowded and somewhat crumbling Brent Spence. That bridge was built in 1963 and, as a vital link in one of the country’s busiest shipping routes, currently carries double the daily traffic it was designed to accommodate.
One of the most important questions to come out of last night’s election isn’t about the results of any specific ballot issue, but instead about the process by which voters cast, or, in some cases, had a hard time casting, their ballots.
Many are wondering why voting was so arduous in Hamilton County yesterday, with technical glitches forcing some voters to cast provisional ballots and imprecise information given by poll workers sending other voters scrambling.
While the entire state of Ohio, and really, much of the country, waited to see if voters would legalize marijuana here, Hamilton County fumbled with errors. Now, some are wondering whether these stumbles are related to a new electronic voting system, and if the difficulties could spell trouble during next year’s sure-to-be-contentious presidential election, where Ohio will play a central role.
Voters reported problems with the county’s new voting system in the West End, Madisonville, Evanston, Northside, Clifton, Coryville, Mount Lookout, Roselawn, Hyde Park, Northside and other areas. The system, which relies on tablet computers to scan IDs and check in voters, hasn’t been used before.
Secretary of State Jon Husted put the entire state’s election results on hold so the county could extend voting times until 9 pm. The order for polls to stay open an extra two hours came from a Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert P. Ruehlman in response to injunctions from Issue 3-backers ResponsibleOhio and former State Sen. Eric Kerney, who cited long lines at some polling stations.
The appeals to the court came after voters in a number of precincts throughout the county reported that, though they had registered to vote months prior, the new electronic voting system employed by the county did not recognize their names and would not allow them to cast electronic ballots, even if their registration was confirmed by written voter logs. Some were asked to cast provisional ballots, or to head to the Hamilton County Board of Elections office downtown.
Jane Pendergrast of Delhi Township reported on Twitter that she had to cast a provisional ballot after her name didn’t show up in the e-poll books. Pendergrast said a poll worker told her the same difficulties had happened to about 50 other voters at the polling location.
Meanwhile, other poll workers were confused by ID requirements and asked voters to cast provisional ballots unnecessarily, some voters say.
The provisional ballots are only counted if elections are close, leading some voters to feel like their votes didn’t matter.
Kevin LeMasters voted at one of the county’s largest polling locations, the Coryville Recreation Center. That voting location serves more than 1,700 voters. He says poll workers there were requiring voters to fill out provisional ballots if the address on their IDs did not match information in the Board of Election’s electronic system, despite the fact that’s not what BOE rules stipulate.
“What concerns me is the following, this particular location is the 2nd largest polling location out of 557 in Hamilton and should be staffed appropriately,” LeMasters said in an e-mail. “It is situated close to UC's campus where the large majority of students do not have an ID with the same address considering the fluid nature of their housing. Was this an accident, something nefarious? Whether malice or ignorance, it is unacceptable either way.”
Secretary of State Husted visited Hamilton County polling locations earlier in the day, when difficulties voting were already being reported. Husted blamed poll worker error for the problems, despite the fact many seemed to be technical in nature and had much to do with the new electronic system used to gather votes.
“"By and large, it's working great," Husted said yesterday. "Any time you have a massive technology change, you're going to have some problems."
Cincinnati City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson pushed back at Husted’s assertion via social media, saying constituents were reporting that tablets used in vote gathering were freezing or not connecting to the internet; technical problems that aren’t necessarily due to poll worker error.
Meanwhile, other, non-technical difficulties popped up. In Northside, some voters found themselves
locked out of a polling location around 7:30 pm, even though it was
ordered to stay open until 9. Eventually, voters there were able to gain
entry to the location, which poll workers said had been locked by
The voting difficulties are the latest chapter in Ohio's fraught struggle over voting access. Voting rights advocates have fought state efforts to reduce voting hours in recent elections, especially in urban areas.
Hamilton County Board of Elections members said no voters appear to have lost the opportunity to vote due to the difficulties and that they don't represent any sort of disenfranchisement, either accidental or purposeful.
But the rocky questions linger about the electronic system, which is set to go state-wide next year, just as the country focuses on Ohio and its pivotal role in deciding an especially heated presidential election.
If you already miss the excitement of following local ballot issues, there are a couple that look likely for next year. Supporters of the Preschool Promise, an initiative that looks to extend preschool to more Cincinnati children, are holding an introductory event tonight at Rhinegeist brewery from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. With 44 percent of the city's children living in poverty, that initiative looks to be a big one for 2016.
• Meanwhile, in Kentucky, Republicans handed Democrats a beating. Bevin's election as governor is something of an upset, as polls had Conway up by as much as five points heading into voting. Bevin is only the second GOP
governor in the last 40 years in Kentucky. The race was also a walloping down-ticket, with Republicans taking most major statewide offices except
attorney general, won by Democrat Andy Beshear, and secretary of state,
which Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes hung onto. Not good news for
Good morning all. Hope your Halloween was really rad. I spent mine dancing like an idiot while marginally dressed up like Waldo of Where’s Waldo fame. That’s right. I chose a literary themed costume because I’m classy. Some friends and I also had a pretty great picnic in Spring Grove Cemetery, which I highly recommend.
Anyway. News. You already knew this, but Cincinnati’s first streetcar showed up on Friday, accompanied by the kind of hoopla usually reserved for astronauts who have been to the moon or people who have saved a bunch of puppies from burning buildings or puppy-saving astronauts, even. A local TV news station broke out the news copter and gave real-time updates of the car’s progress down I-71 and Reading Road into Over-the-Rhine. Every blogger in the city blogged about the blog-worthiest event in the local blogosphere. (Btw, Microsoft Word recognizes “blogosphere” as a legitimate word because we live in the worst era ever). My Instagram account was damn near unusable for hours afterward because it was just pictures of a single streetcar not on its tracks and a bunch of people looking at it. Yes, yes. It was a historic day and streetcars haven’t run in this city since the 1950s. Personally, I’ll start partying the minute I can step on a streetcar in Mount Auburn, feel it glide down the old tracks I walk past every day poking up out of Highland Ave., and step off at work. That’d be the day. Until then, woo hoo.
• Meanwhile, OTR is getting more $500,000-plus homes, all right along the streetcar route. Recently-founded Cincinnati based development company Karvoto has announced plans for nine townhomes in the neighborhood, all with three bedrooms and between 2,000 and 2,700 square feet of space. The $4 million development will renovate four buildings along Wade Street and Kemp Alley and also construct five new buildings in the same area.
• A series of e-mails between city officials and Cincinnati-based corporation Western & Southern reveal the two have been collaborating on plans for the overhaul of Lytle Park downtown near W&S headquarters and the conversion of a nearby former women’s shelter, the Anna Louise Inn, into a luxury hotel. That renovation has been controversial; the building’s former occupant, Cincinnati Union Bethel, had used the building for its women’s shelter for more than a century before a legal battle eventually forced it to sell to W&S. The e-mails also show that the city is mulling the sale or lease of two streets near those locations to Eagle Realty, the real estate arm of W&S. In addition to collaboration, the messages reveal conflict between the city’s Park Board and Eagle over the sale of the streets, dumpsters associated with the Anna Louise Inn renovation and other issues. Critics of charter amendment Issue 22, a park-oriented tax increase on tomorrow’s ballot, released the e-mails recently after gaining access to them through an open records request. Issue 22 seeks to fund a number of proposed projects, including the remake of Lytle Park, through a permanent property tax increase.
• As folks tear their hair out and obsess over a 1 mill property tax increase for the city’s parks, Hamilton County Commissioners are on the way to passing a $209 million spending package that is drawing about as much attention as Jim Webb’s presidential campaign. In what can only be described as a reverse Parks and Recreation scenario, four scheduled public hearings about the budget garnered exactly zero public attendees to give input on the plan. Part of that is because the budget doesn’t exactly depart wildly from the status quo — there are few if any dramatic cuts or spending swells. It’s not that there aren’t big issues: Hamilton County’s morgue needs a huge update, and commissioners aren’t sure how to pay for it, for example. But for now, the big money fights are elsewhere, and that’s left commissioners feeling a little lonely, calling for someone, anyone, to comment on their handiwork. Democrat Commissioner Todd Portune had an aptly spooky quote about the ghostly public.
“It’s almost like the county is the Sleepy Hollow of local government,” he said. “You typically don’t get the same kind of public involvement that you see at the city or other local municipalities.”
• Ohio will have to wait a while to vote on a replacement for former Speaker of the House John Boehner, who represented the West Chester area in Congress. It’ll be a hot day in June when his District 8 congressional seat goes up for a special election, and I for one can’t wait to see what kind of A-plus candidates run for the spot. Boehner bailed on the top spot in Congress last month after tea party Republican machinations in the House nearly brought the government to a shutdown again, this time over Planned Parenthood. Boehner, tired of trying to shepherd his unruly flock of hardcore anti-government conservatives peaced out of the fray, leaving the GOP to fumble and fidget until finally roping U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin into the leadership role. Now the House has a head again, but Ohio’s 8th District is still without representation. Thanks Boehner.
• Finally, Gov. John Kasich signed a bill today that would create more oversight for the state’s private charter schools, which have become something of a boondoggle for his administration and the Ohio Department of Education. Numerous investigations have taken place around the schools, which use public money to create private alternative to public school districts. Earlier this year, one of those investigations revealed that ODE officials neglected to include scores from particularly low-performing online charter schools in performance evaluations for charters. Other scandals have befallen charters in the recent past, including revelations of financial mismanagement, staff misbehavior and attendance irregularities at charters throughout the state, including in Cincinnati.
Annnnnd I’m out. Go vote tomorrow.
Happy (almost) Halloween Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines.
Council members yesterday said they will find a way to fund the Wasson Way bike trail, even if Issue 22 fails next Tuesday. The proposed hike and bike trail would stretch from Avondale to Columbia Township and is one of the Mayor Cranley's projects included in his proposed permanent tax levy. Supporters of the Wasson Way trail have also been highly in favor of Issue 22. Council members Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, Wendell Young and Charlie Winburn urged voters yesterday at a news conference outside City Hall to vote against the permanent tax levy and said they would find a way to fund the 7.5-mile trail that could cost anywhere between $7.5 million and $36 million. Councilman Seelbach suggested the money could come from elsewhere, like a temporary property tax increase, private endowments or scholarships or the recent sale of the Blue Ash airport. The project recently lost out on a $17 million competitive federal grant.
• So, the streetcar didn't quite make its debut this morning, but it's definitely coming this afternoon. The latest update from the city says that it has arrived safely in Ohio and will now be unloaded at 4 p.m. this afternoon. So if you have no last-minute Halloween costume details attend to, you can come hang out at the Maintenance and Operation Facilities on the corner of Race and Henry streets in Over-the-Rhine and watch it be unloaded.
• ResponsibleOhio, the super PAC that put Issue 3 to legalize marijuana on the ballot, says the ilegal drug trade might be after them. A thief hacked a Fifth Third bank account belonging to Strategy Network, the political consulting firm that oversees ResponsibleOhio, and stole $200,000, its organizers say. A second attempt to steal $300,000 was stopped by Parma Police. Executive Director of ResponsibleOhio and CEO of Strategy Network Ian James said law enforcement told him it was "a pretty heavy duty drug dealer." James also told FOX19 that one of ResponsibleOhio's organizers was receiving threatening phone calls from an unknown source. The pro-pot group has claimed Issue 3 would put major drug dealers out of business.
• Mayor Cranley is clearly pushing hard for Issue 22, but how does he feel about legalizing marijuana, the other major issue on the upcoming ballot? According to WCPO, he's not saying, and neither are many other local leaders. According to University of Cincinnati Political Science Professor Dave Niven, the issue blurs party lines and is split 50-50, so most play it safe by keeping their mouths shut.
• Former House Speaker John Boehner passed the gavel to Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin yesterday. Ryan was elected to succeed Boehner Wednesday and is the youngest Speaker since 1869. Cincinnati-native Boehner announced his resignation last month, ending his four year run as Speaker. According to the New York Times, in his brief farewell speech, he held a tissue box, as he's often prone to tears, and told the House, “If anything, I leave the way I started: just a regular guy, humbled by the chance to do a big job.”
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines to help cure that Republican debate hangover.
• Mayor John Cranley rolled out a plan to help attract more immigrants to Cincinnati. Yesterday, Cranley announced the 14 short-term goals and nine longer term goals developed by the task force on immigration he convened last year. One of the major goals is establishing a center where immigrants can obtain information and support services in the city, like ones in Pittsburgh and Chicago. The city will collaborate with the University of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commence and Children's Hospital as well as other organizations to first build a website then an actual center. Other goals include ensuring that immigrants get fair treatment and their full legal rights, increased cultural sensitivity training for police and an ordinance from the city that would go after wage theft. Cranley is hoping to bring the task force recommended ordinances to Council in the next two weeks.
• The first streetcar is finally set to arrive tomorrow morning. Don't believe me and have absolutely nothing to do tomorrow morning? Then come and see city officials unload the first vehicle for yourself. Tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. on the corner of Race and Henry streets in Over-The-Rhine, city and SORTA officials will spend 90 minutes unloading the first car onto the tracks a month and a half after it was first supposed to arrive. But don't expect a sneak peek into the cars. No tours will be available until it undergoes testing and starts to get a little more comfortable in its new home.
• Gov. John Kasich made another mad dash to hang on to his presidential aspirations last night during the third Republican primary debate on CNBC. Because of his low poll numbers, CNBC stuck him in the far left corner, but that didn't stop him from getting his word in. According to NPR, he came in third for the total time spent talking, less than a minute behind Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio and, surprisingly, ahead of aggressively chatty Donald Trump. Kasich went around a few questions, preferring not to answer what his greatest weaknesses are and brushing over the legalization of marijuana, which could happen in Ohio in less than a week, but he did say it gave kids "mixed signals." Kasich seemed to prefer to talk about balancing budgets, cutting taxes, reforming education and welfare and the $2 billion surplus and, of course, dodging Trump's jabs at his low poll numbers.
• Cincinnati for once jumped ahead of other Ohio cities when it enacted anti-discrimination protections for gay, lesbian and bisexual people, but Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) would like to see these protections expanded across the state. Antonio, the state's first openly gay lawmaker, has pushed the non-discrimination law before, but her first attempt failed, and now she's trying again. The majority of U.S. states don't have non-discrimination laws in place for sexual orientation, and Gov. Kasich has reportedly hinted that he would support it — in exchange for protections on religious freedom.
Racist messages, including at least one appearing to threaten lynching for black student activists at University of Cincinnati, have recently begun appearing on social media site Yik Yak in response to calls to increased diversity on UC’s flagship campus.
Yik-Yak is an anonymous, location-based online message board. One of the recent messages posted on the site reads, “I don’t know if I have enough rope for all of the irate8…”
The message appears to refer to lynching,
a murderous tactic used throughout the United States, but especially in
the Jim Crow-era South, to terrorize blacks during the decades after
Mayor John Cranley and the Task Force on Immigration he convened last year announced a series of recommendations this morning the mayor says are aimed at making Cincinnati the most welcoming city to immigrants in the country.
The task force announced 14 short-term, two-year goals and another nine longer-term, five-year goals designed to persuade and help immigrants settle in Cincinnati while protecting their legal rights and encouraging entrepreneurship.
“We want to be a city of growth and opportunity,” Cranley said during a news conference about the task force’s recommendations, “and we think this is the right thing to do for the economic vitality of our city.”
Among the short-term objectives the task force would like to tackle are the establishment of a center where immigrants coming to Cincinnati can find information, support and services in the community. That center, a collaboration between the city, the University of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, Children’s Hospital and other organizations, will start out as a website while a permanent, physical center similar to ones in Pittsburgh and Chicago is established.
“We’ll have infrastructure and support services for immigrants from around the world,” Cranley said. The mayor said UC has committed $50,000 a year to the effort, and Cranley said he’ll be asking Cincinnati City Council to approve a similar commitment. “This is a true collaboration, and it’s very inspiring to see the community come together to support something we don’t have.”
That center will help connect and coordinate the many efforts to help immigrants currently happening while looking to provide services that may not yet exist.
“We know that there are a lot of really great organizations throughout the city already doing wonderful things to serve our immigrant populations,” said Jill Meyer, President and CEO of the Cincinnati, USA Regional Chamber, which will provide staffing and other support for the center. “What you’ll see in the months ahead is us looking for new ways for this center to connect some dots and fill in the gaps that are there so that a one-stop shop is the reality for our new Cincinnatians.”
Another set of short-and-long-term goals will seek to ensure that immigrants are treated fairly and get their full legal rights. The task force calls for increased cultural sensitivity training for police, a deeper commitment by the city to punish violations of immigrants’ civil rights and calls for an ordinance from the city pledging to go after wage theft, a big issue for immigrant workers. Among the members of the task force is Manuel Perez, who works with the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center, which has helped lead the conversation around wage theft in Cincinnati.
Cranley declined to comment explicitly on what effect the effort could have on the undocumented immigrant population in the region, but did point out that some of the partners in the task force are working independently on measures like ID cards for undocumented immigrants. Those IDs would then be recognized by municipal offices, including the police department.
According to data released recently by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a pro-immigration think-tank, the foreign-born population of metro Cincinnati has contributed more than $189 million in state and municipal taxes. Within the city, foreign-born residents have more than $1.5 billion in spending power, according to the data.
“Right from the start, there was a strong consensus from the members about the importance of immigrants for our city,” said task force co-chair Raj Chundur, who explained that more than 70 volunteers comprised the task-force. Those volunteers were broken up into five subcommittees covering education and talent retention, rights and safety, economic development, international attractiveness and resources and development.
Cranley says he hopes to bring ordinances associated with the task force’s recommendation to Council in the next two weeks and predicted the measures would pass easily.