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by Nick Swartsell 10.09.2015 53 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Former Drop Inn Center reopens in Queensgate; free health screenings offered throughout city on Sunday; U.S. House slips further into chaos

Good morning all. It’s news time friends.

Today marks the opening of David and Rebecca Baron Center for Men, the homeless shelter in Queensgate replacing the Drop Inn Center that was located in Over-the-Rhine for decades. The shelter, located in a renovated Butternut Bread factory on Gest Street, has 150 beds and more than 79,000 square feet of space. The shelter, operated by nonprofit Shelterhouse, is one of five operating as part of the city’s Homelessness to Homes plan overseen by Strategies to End Homelessness. The move marks the end of years of fighting by advocates for the homeless to keep the shelter, the region’s largest, in Over-the-Rhine.

• Cincinnati’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists yesterday hosted a panel discussion on media coverage of the July shooting death of Samuel DuBose by University of Cincinnati Police officer Ray Tensing. The panel, staged at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, included Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black, attorneys for both the DuBose family and Ray Tensing, a representative from Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters’ office and news directors from The Cincinnati Enquirer and Channels 9, 19, 12 and 5. Topics ranged from the portrayal of both Tensing and DuBose in the initial reporting of the incident — many outlets showed a mugshot of DuBose and referred to him as a “suspect” in their early reports, while showing Tensing in uniform — to the media’s responsibility to report accurately without further inflaming community tensions. I live tweeted a lot of the discussion, as did many other attendees, under the hashtag #wordsandimages. Check out the discussion.

• First Lady Dena Cranley and a number of faith leaders will announce the first step in a major health initiative today at City Hall at 1 pm. Cranley, national executive director of the First Ladies Health Initiative Tracey Alston and the wives of a number of church leaders will unveil the first-annual health day, which will take place Sunday Oct. 11. The event, which will offer free health screenings for a number of conditions from diabetes to HIV, will take place at 18 locations throughout the city. You can find these locations and hours they'll be open here.

• A landmark historic building in Walnut Hills is on its way to renovation. Last week, the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation purchased the iconic Paramount Building on Peebles Corner for $750,000 and plans a full-scale redevelopment of the property. The foundation estimates that work will cost at least $3 million and is currently raising funds to complete the effort. The 80-year-old Paramount long served as a theater in the neighborhood and is one of Walnut Hills’ distinctive landmarks with its turret-like front façade.

• How much does health care cost in Cincinnati? Well, it depends, and it’s kinda arbitrary. That’s especially true when it comes to care for women, a new study released by castlighthealth.com finds. Costs for procedures like mammograms diverge wildly in the Cincinnati area, running anywhere from $123 to nearly $300 depending on where you go. HPV tests are similarly wide-ranging in their costs. Healthcare outlets charge anywhere from $24 to $208 for the routine test. Some other, non-gender specific health services, such as a preventive primary care visit, also vary wildly in price, but the ranges are especially wide for services for women. The price differences reflect the varying deals insurers are able to strike with hospitals and other healthcare providers, as well as a number of other factors that Castlight researchers say show how dysfunctional America’s healthcare system is. You can see the full study and how Cincinnati compares to other cities here.

• So this is just really cool. Officials and community advocates in Akron shut down a highway to hold a 500-person dinner and community conversation. On Oct. 4, Akron police shut down a section of the city's Inner Belt Freeway while volunteers set up 63 tables for guests. Attendees, led by facilitators, then had a meal and discussed the city's future, delving into a number of contentious issues while taking notes and sketching out ideas. Among the topics of discussion: what to do with the freeway they were sitting on, which cut through low-income neighborhoods and separated them from downtown when it was built in the 1970s. That freeway will soon be shut down  — it serves only 18,000 cars a day, a far cry from the 120,000 for which it was designed.

• Could John Boehner’s resignation from the House of Representatives and the ensuing chaos it has caused (more on that in a minute) have repercussions in the Kentucky governor’s race? It’s looking like it. Republican gubernatorial candidate and tea party dude Matt Bevin has been waging a tough-fought campaign against Democrat candidate Jack Conway. But now, at least some prominent Republicans in Kentucky are turning their backs on Bevin in favor of Conway as a result of distaste for the tea party movement that has caused deep fissures within the GOP. Part of the lingering bitterness is from Bevin’s 2012 primary challenge of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Bevin ran a nasty campaign against McConnell, marshaling tea party anger and attempting to use it against the veteran lawmaker. Bevin failed in that race, but has been seen as a viable candidate for governor. But with the divide between establishment Republicans and radical tea party conservatives growing wider, it may be hard for him to pull together the support he needs to defeat Conway.

• Finally, speaking of all that, I just want to talk really quick about how fascinating things are getting in the House of Representatives. A couple weeks back we told you about how the resignation of House Speaker and Greater Cincinnatian John Boehner could bring more power to hardline rightwingers in the GOP. At the time, this was an arguable point, considering House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was all lined up to take Boehner’s place. Now, it’s not that McCarthy isn’t conservative, but like Boehner, he has no interested in shutting down the government or engaging in some of the more radical tactics tea party conservatives in the House have championed. Welp, hate to say I told you so, but yesterday McCarthy dropped out of the running for speaker, and now Republicans are scrambling to find a willing replacement who isn’t part of the three dozen or so tea party radicals in the GOP. Party leaders, including Boehner, who just wants to get the hell out of there at this point, are reportedly begging U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, former Vice Presidential candidate in Mitt Romney’s last run, to step up and take the job, but Ryan’s all like, nah, that’s cool I’m good.

That’s it for me. Hit me up on Twitter or email me with news tips or your favorite Halloween haunted houses. I’m trying to hit up several before they close for the season.

by Rick Pender 10.09.2015 53 days ago
Posted In: Theater at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stage Door

Sex and violence, plus an irreverent take on history

I gave a Critic’s Pick to the Cincinnati Playhouse’s production of Sex with Strangers, a new play by Laura Eason (who’s written scripts for House of Cards on Netflix). Ethan, an arrogant 28-year-old blogger has turned his writing about sexual conquests into a best-selling book, while Olivia is a serious, introspective writer who, at 39, is hiding behind a teaching career, discouraged by negative reviews and weak sales of her first novel more than a decade earlier. He’s addicted to his cell phone, while she prefers to have her nose in a book. But they have chemistry that’s both physical and driven by aspiration and envy of one another’s careers. The Playhouse production features two actors who are totally believable in their roles, and extremely watchable. It’s an entertaining tale that doesn’t tie everything up in a neat ending. Through Oct. 25. Tickets: 513-421-3888

William Mastrisomone’s Extremities (running through Oct. 18) is not an easy play to watch. A woman is attacked by a stalker, turns the tables on him and becomes as much a bloodthirsty animal as the man who thought he could have his way with her. She has two roommates who try to defuse her violent intentions, but she’s almost as harsh with them as with the bad guy. It’s a harsh story that’s not easy to watch, and it’s a departure for Cincinnati Landmark Productions, which is known for more mainstream fare, musicals and classic comedies. But the company’s artistic leaders are hoping that the new Incline Theatre can be a venue for more serious work, and this show, written in 1982, certainly signals that. Solid individual acting jobs by the four-member cast will keep you on edge. There are a few rough edges, but I give CLP props for getting serious. Tickets: 513-241-6550

Know Theatre is playing host to a production from the drama program at CCM, directed by faculty member Brant Russell. Charise Castro Smith’s The Hunchback of Seville is an irreverent and raucous comedy that turns historical atrocities — it’s set in Spain in 1504 — on their heads with storytelling that might remind you of Quentin Tarantino’s movies. Russell says the playwright “weaves history and anachronism. The subtle variances of tone, the frequently less subtle humor and the savoring of the language all speak to me. In terms of content, this play is very much about anyone who’s ever been marginalized. This is the story of a woman who is denied so many privileges that others enjoy because she was born in a body different from those around her. Ultimately it’s a story about privilege, ethics, power, and the way we tell the story of our shared history.” It opens tonight and continues through Oct. 24. Tickets: 513-300-5669 

Advance notices: I’m really looking forward to seeing Pippin, the next touring Broadway musical at the Aronoff, kicking off on Tuesday. It’s by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell and Wicked are two of his best-known works), and this is a production that won a 2013 Tony Award as the season’s best musical revival. It’s a cool concept, integrating Cirque du Soleil-like performers into the story of a young man’s quest for meaning in the Middle Ages. It’s here for just one week (through Sunday, Oct. 18), so if you hope to see it, get your tickets now. … Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati will open its production of Buyer and Cellar on Wednesday (it continues through Nov. 1). It’s a very funny one-man show about an out-of-work actor hired to manage Barbra Streisand’s collections of stuff, set up like a shopping mall. There’s enough reality to make it hilarious, and enough truth to make it meaningful. I suspect it will be a hot ticket: 513-421-3555 

Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.

by Mike Breen 10.08.2015 54 days ago
Posted In: Local Music, Live Music, Music Video, New Releases at 12:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

WATCH: Alone at 3AM’s “I’m Dying” Music Video

Greater Cincinnati roots rockers reveal clip for track off of new album ‘Show the Blood’

Over the past year or so, Northern Kentucky’s SofaBurn Records has risen to become one of the more notable independent record labels in the region. The imprint has helped draw national attention to locally-produced gems like singer/songwriter Jeremy Pinnell’s amazing OH/KY album, and it has also released various singles featuring area artists like Buffalo Killers and R. Ring (featuring Kelley Deal and Northern Kentucky’s Mike Montgomery). Tomorrow (Oct. 9), the label is putting out the latest from former SubPop recording artist and Kentucky native Daniel Martin Moore; you can listen to Moore’s Golden Age (produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James) now via the Wall Street Journal’s website

Another great local band that is part of the SofaBurn roster is Alone at 3AM, the soulful and melodic Roots Rock crew fronted by singer/songwriter Max Fender that has been kicking ass for the past decade and a half-plus with consistently excellent releases showcasing Fender’s compelling songwriting abilities. 

Alone at 3AM’s fantastic new album, Show the Bloodwas released by SofaBurn last month and it has already scored some glowing reviews, including one from Roots Rock/AltCountry bible No Depression, which called the LP “a superb album from the first to the last track.” 

This Saturday, Alone at 3AM is playing a free show at Northside’s Comet to support the new release. The 10 p.m. show also includes sets from Northern Kentucky’s A City on Fire and Joliet, Ill.’s Death and Memphis. 

Ahead of the show, the band has unveiled a new music video for Show the Blood track “I’m Dying,” a Heartland Rock ear-worm that Springsteen/Petty fans should instantly fall in love with. (The track was premiered on Guitar World’s website back in July.)  

The “I’m Dying” video is a no-nonsense clip shot in Northern Kentucky. "This video is just a little window into what life is like in Dayton, Ky., where I wrote the album,” Fender says. “(We) had lots of fun shooting it with Sarah (Davis, Alone at 3AM harmony singer and keyboardist).” 

After the show at The Comet, Fender is setting off on a European solo tour with labelmate Pinnell. Click here to keep tabs on the latest Alone at 3AM happenings. 

by Tony Johnson 10.08.2015 54 days ago
at 11:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spoonful of Cinema: Sicario

You can feel it. Under the suspense, the action, the tension — fear. The fear of the unknown. The fear of death. The fear that you don’t amount to anything more than the dirt you tread on. The fear that your efforts to do what is right only contribute to the very evil you fight. The fear that you are horribly wrong. The fear that you are as alone as you think you are.

This unrelenting fear bubbles viciously beneath the surface of Sicario, the crime-and-punishment thriller that brings our greatest nightmares to the Mexican border drug wars. Emily Blunt stars and shines as plays-it-by-the-book FBI Agent Kate Macer. When Kate is recruited by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to search for the men responsible for the killing of two police officers and dozens of immigrants, she agrees. But almost immediately, the motives behind the mission become less and less clear. A mysterious Colombian partner of Graver’s, Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro), is heavily involved in the operation, which troubles Kate, and she begins to wonder who she is really working for, who she is helping and who she is fighting against.

Kate’s journey to Juarez and back and throughout the border is as tense as it gets. Director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) holds nothing back in keeping us on the edge of our seats, squeezing our sodas and shoving popcorn into our faces. Kate never seems safe. Alejandro barely seems human. Graver hardly seems genuine. If Sicario were a roller coaster, it would be in our best interest to buckle up and strap in.

The story and visions that flash on the silver screen throughout Sicario are gritty and unnerving, fraught with uncertainty and discomfort. Villeneuve’s camera is unafraid to intrude upon our characters. We see every mark of desperate frustration on Kate’s face. We are thrust into a shootout in the middle of a traffic jam. We witness Alejandro’s interrogation methods. It isn’t pretty, but it makes for a strikingly suspenseful trip along the tracks of the Mexican drug cartel’s trade routes and the U.S. government’s efforts to mop up the mess.

If a plot is only as good as the actors that bring it to life, it should be safe to say that there are no shortcomings with the players who provide the pulse of the story. Emily Blunt seems ready to take her place amongst Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett Johansson in the upper echelon of A-list Hollywood-actress badasses. She is as much as anyone can ask for as agent Kate Macer. We find ourselves rooting for Kate not only to survive, but also to find some legitimate meaning or purpose or silver lining to the work she has given herself to — even if we doubt that it may be there. She lays her life on the line, not without questions, but without a trace of cynicism. Blunt nails the character, creating an overwhelmed hero who pushes her private life aside for the sake of an idealistic pursuit of bringing those to justice who most require it.

Blunt is supported by the macho pairing of Brolin and Del Toro, each in prime form. Brolin is spot-on as the ethically dismissive Graver. Rather than being up-front with Kate about their objectives, Graver keeps her in the dark, laughing off most of her concerns with country-boy quips and tasteless witticisms. Del Toro turns in an ice-cold performance. His commanding brevity accentuates the frozen stare he gives anyone and everyone, and there isn’t an ounce of trustworthiness to be found upon his face. Whether Alejandro’s loyalties exist or not is a total mystery, and the only thing that we are sure of with him is that he gives nothing up — he has no tells. Del Toro gives us a relentless portrayal of a man with nothing to lose, little to gain and motivations shrouded in stoic ruthlessness.

But once the film finishes — once the curtain is drawn back and the gears of the murderous machinery are revealed — we are left feeling as hopeless as when we are oblivious to the inner workings of the border conflict at hand. There is no saving grace. No relief. No future. Only more of the same. More empty hands, more empty promises, more empty homes — all of which fuel the fire of the drug trade to grow stronger and more sure of itself with each passing day, week and military operation.

With twists and turns throttling our sense of security along the way, Sicario eventually reaches its stunningly bleak conclusion with a sobering impression left on the audience. The notion is suggested that violence and war and vengeance are not chosen. They are evils that are learned, inherited and bestowed upon those unfortunate enough to experience the effects of the evil that they are afflicted with. They are a collective plague, a virus impossible to end — an epidemic unable to be curbed. War, violence, and betrayal never end. It only reimagines, redistributes, and recreates itself. Somewhere between the militaristic sabotage of Zero Dark Thirty and the desert-heated tension of No Country For Old Men, Sicario is a stunning knockout of a picture that pulls no punches, provides no apologies and leaves even the most romantic of all of us asking: Are there “good guys” anymore? And if there are, how different are they from the “bad guys” they’re after? Grade: A



by Natalie Krebs 10.08.2015 54 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

City Council votes to preserve Kings Records building; Study finds Cranley's park tax levy will bring $117 million; Half of Ohioans on board with legalizing weed

It's almost Friday, Cincy! Hang in there with me. I've got plenty of studies and polls to keep you going this morning. 

• City Council voted unanimously yesterday to designate the old Kings Records building a historic landmark. The future of the building has been controversial as city leaders and activists have fought to save the building. They hope that it renovation along with a nearby educational facility could revitalize Evanston. However, the building's owner, Dynamite Industries, has other ideas. They would like to demolish the building and may sue the city over its decision. Kings Records saw its heyday 1940s to the 1970s when it was the sixth largest record label in the world. Famous musicians like Otis Redding and James Brown spent time at the Evanston studio, and Brown recorded some of his greatest hits with the label.                

• A report commissioned by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and Cincinnati Business Committee found Mayor Cranley's proposed tax levy for city parks would have an economic impact of $117 million in the first ten years. Cranley has proposed a permanent property tax levy to revamp and maintain the city's parks with 16 different projects, like increasing hiking and biking trails to attract commuters. Some worry about the lack of oversight in Cranley's proposal and that his plan, which he has referred to as "park-o-nomics" could lead to the commercialization of public parks. 

• A just over half of Ohioians--53 percent to be exact--are on board with legalizing marijuana for recreational use compared to 44 percent who said they are not. The Quinnipiac poll found that 65 percent claim they would definitely not use marijuana it if it were legalized, however. The poll didn't specifically ask about Issue 3, but posed general questions about legalizing the drug. The survey found men were overall more supportive of it then women as were younger people more so than older folk.  

The same poll found that Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and former Ohio governor Ted Strickland at 46 percent support is slightly ahead of GOP candidate Rob Portman, who had 43 percent support. 

• While it might not yet have the tech reputation of San Francisco or Austin, website ValuePenguin.com ranked Cincinnati ninth on its list of mid-sized cities for web developers. According to its data, Cincinnati has about 910 web development jobs with an average salary of $65,390 and the cost of living here definitely beats that of San Francisco and Austin. The cities are placed into three categories based on population: large, mid-sized and small. You can check out the full list here. 

• Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn will be answering some tough questions from Congress this morning. The executive is scheduled to go before a U.S. House subcommittee investigating the discovery that VW has been cheating on their U.S. emissions tests. U.S. inspectors found nearly 500,000 cars starting with the 2009 models were equipped with software to distort the emissions produced during government tests. Horn is planning on telling Congress that he had only learned of the software a few week ago. VW and U.S. official have not yet announced how they will fix the recalled vehicles. 

• I went to my first Cincinnati Reds game against the Chicago Cubs last Wednesday. The Reds lost their last home game pretty badly, but the game redeemed itself slightly in the eighth inning when they managed to strike out the 11th Cubs batter. For this, I won a small LaRosa's pizza as did everyone else with a ticket to that game. So how many free pizzas has LaRosa's given out in the four years that they've offered this promotion? According to the Cincinnati Business Courier, 640,000. But this year they gave away one-third less pizzas as compared to last year. Attendance was down as Reds didn't quite do so well. Better luck next year, Reds! 

As usual, my email me at nkrebs@citybeat.com. Any story ideas or happenings are welcome.

by Kerry Skiff 10.07.2015 55 days ago
Posted In: Architecture, Visual Art at 01:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Beyond the Books

The Robot Zoo at the Boone County Public Library's main branch

I must confess, driving by a library and seeing a silhouette of a rhino through a window is pretty cool. But that was nothing compared to the large giraffe that nodded its head at me just a few feet inside the entrance of the main branch of the Boone County Public Library, in Burlington, Kentucky. Both are part of the 18-station Robot Zoo that moved into the library just six weeks ago, and will be staying for the next five months.

The Robot Zoo, a 5,000-square-foot traveling exhibit, displays a variety of huge robot animals including a giant squid, bat, platypus, rhino, chameleon, grasshopper and giraffe. Finding all the stations takes a bit of exploring since they’re scattered around the library, but after watching the large creatures move, I have to say it’s pretty cool. As I walked around I marveled at how each exhibit showed the unique traits of the animal, highlighting fun facts about their anatomy. “You kind of watch and see everything going on and then read how that ties in,” says Shawn Fry, assistant director of the Boone County Public Library. “That’s where the kind of learning is snuck in.”

Becky Kempf, Public Relations Coordinator, says the exhibit provides a lot of fun for kids. “It’s not going to be quiet here for the next few months,” she jokes after handing me the list of stations. Fry says the library is always trying new ways to engage the community. “[We’re] always looking for new ways to use our space, to bring people in, to excite people,” he says. “Right now STEM programming — the science, technologies, engineering [and math] — is the thing, a very exciting thing. This is a way to incorporate that.”

According to Kempf, the Robot Zoo exceeds the library’s wish list for a new program. “Our mission is to provide life-long learning opportunities for all ages,” she says, “so whether it’s through books or the research help that we provide or bringing something like this in…it’s right down our alley. It fits perfectly with what we’re trying to do.” Fry says the branch is lucky it’s big enough to house the exhibit, and describes the challenges of moving the parts inside. “The giraffe, I think, was the hardest,” he laughs, “and it’s kind of the entrance for the whole thing.”

“It’s been really interesting… seeing, in all kinds of ages, the enthusiasm in watching them build it,” adds Fry. “There were kids that came in today [Monday] that were all excited; they’d been waiting…and they were excited.” I don’t blame them; it was almost like walking through a quiet, indoor zoo, without having to dodge wayward geese or worry about sunburn. I observed the grasshopper twitching its antennae and peeked in its open side at the glowing innards, revealing the 10 sections of the abdomen. The rhino, a declared work-in-progress, pursed its large lips, emphasized to show how their texture helps trim its grassy food while the bat creaks from its upside-down perch in the corner.

Fry may say the exhibit is geared toward kids, but he and I both saw adults exploring too. “We kind of didn’t know it would be this cool,” Fry says, laughing. “Regardless of age, we’ve gotten lots of positive feedback.”

The Robot Zoo will be at the Burlington branch through Feb. 28, 2016. Admission is free, thanks to community sponsors, and the exhibit is open during library hours.

Other Boone County Public Library Events:
Ghosts of Rabbit Hash: Oct. 10 – Get a tour through the tiny town and hear about its haunts.
Herbs and Supplements: What’s right for you?: Oct. 13 – Learn about what natural healers and supplements are healthy or harmful.
Concert at the Library: Oct. 23 – Whiskeybent Valley performs at the Main branch.

by Nick Swartsell 10.07.2015 55 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cranley's Anti-Poverty Plan Gets Mixed Reviews

Supporters cheer the mayor's focus on childhood poverty, but critics say Cranley's proposals don't go far enough

Mayor John Cranley’s State of the City speech earlier this week touched on a number of issues the mayor has deemed priorities in the coming year — among them, the city’s sky-high childhood poverty rate.

Last year, according the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, 44.3 percent of the city’s children lived in poverty. That’s down from over 50 percent in 2012, when Cincinnati ranked second-highest in the country, but still double the national average of about 22 percent and nearly double Ohio’s average of 23 percent.

Cranley says he wants to find ways to lift 10,000 of Cincinnati’s 30,000 poor kids out of poverty in the next five years. To do that, he’s proposing convening a task force that will present recommendations for reaching that goal. The task force will present those recommendations June 30, 2016 — the day before the city’s new fiscal year.

Is that goal realistic? And does Cranley’s proposal to create a task force that will research ways to address childhood poverty in Cincinnati go far enough? Some say no, citing other Cranley proposals, including a parks charter amendment that would spend millions in property tax revenues to create new recreational attractions, that will spend much more money on things critics say are less pressing or effective.

Meanwhile, others applaud the fact the mayor is focusing on the problem and say they are willing to give his ideas time to play out.

City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson is among the critics of Cranley’s approach.

In an Oct. 6 editorial for The Cincinnati Enquirer, Simpson said the mayor’s big speech left out some key considerations — from the University of Cincinnati police shooting death of Samuel DuBose and ongoing racial issues in the city to progress made on the city’s streetcar system.

One of the speech’s big shortfalls, Simpson says, is the lack of a serious plan to address poverty in the city.

“For those individuals living in poverty and organizations actively working on the root causes and effects of institutional, inter-generational poverty everyday, organizing a ‘summit’ and expecting it will lead to a one-third reduction in our childhood poverty rate in 5 years is, at best, out of touch and at worst, disrespectful,” Simpson wrote in the piece.

Simpson said Cranley’s statements are surprising considering the recent fight between the mayor’s office and City Council over human services funding in the city’s budget. Democrats on Council pushed for more money for programs traditionally funded through human services in the budget to get the city back on track toward devoting at least 1 percent of the budget toward such programs.

Council passed a resolution last fall asking the city to double funding for traditional human services programs. While making this year’s city budget, however, City Manager Harry Black ignored that resolution and put much of that money in new programs not usually associated with traditional human services. Meanwhile, federal money usually given to other programs was directed toward the mayor’s Hand Up Initiative, which looks to get more poor Cincinnatians into jobs making around $10 an hour through programs like Cincinnati Cooks! and Cincinnati Works. Those dynamics caused a big battle over the city budget.

Community activist Mike Moroski sits on the steering committee for Hand Up. He’s also the executive director of UpSpring, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the city’s childhood poverty problem. Moroski says he’s not always been a Cranley fan, but his time working on Hand Up has convinced him the mayor is responsive to input and new ideas. He says he’s willing to give Cranley’s anti-poverty ideas time to bear fruit.

“I voted for [Cranley’s 2013 mayoral opponent] Roxanne Qualls,” Moroski says. “I didn't think John Cranley would be a very good mayor.”

Moroski says he still disagrees with Cranley on some issues, including the streetcar, but says those issues aren’t as important as addressing the city’s big poverty problem. He says he believes the mayor — and City Council — are serious about working toward solving that problem and that he hopes city officials can work past politics together toward that end.
“Will Mayor Cranley's new Task Force do just that? I have no idea, but I am willing to be hopeful and wait and see,” Moroski said in an email yesterday. “I am not willing to dismiss it right out of the gate. Did he spend enough time on it last evening? I don't know — I am not going to pass judgment because it wasn't talked about enough — I am just happy it was talked about.”

The city has made some efforts to address its deep economic divisions, including a recent raft of ordinances that would help address the racial and gender disparities in its contracting practices. However, Cincinnati is still a place of stunning inequalities when it comes to the economic conditions of its neighborhoods, and ways to address those inequalities look to remain front and center in conversations about the city’s future.

"Mayor Cranley wants 2016 to be the year that we dig in and have real conversations about poverty and take action," Moroski says. "And I will support that. I will also support any initiative that any council member proposes that does the same. And, as I said, if any of these initiatives appear to be hollow, then I will pass judgment. But not until I see what plays out."

by Natalie Krebs 10.07.2015 55 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
p.g. sittenfeld.nar

Morning News and Stuff

ResponsibleOhio under investigation for submitting fraudulent voter registration forms; Sittenfeld calls for opponents to renounce NRA support; Blue Lives Matter launches billboard campaign; U.S. under fire for Doctors Without Borders bombing

Hey Cincy! Here are your morning headlines.  

• There's potentially more trouble on the horizon for ResponsibleOhio less than a month before voters head to the polls to vote on its ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. The Hamilton County Board of Elections is looking into possible voter registration fraud after the board found that at least four of the registration forms filed by a company on behalf of the super PAC were signed by dead people and two were signed by people currently incarcerated and therefore illegible to vote. The registrations forms were submitted by the Strategic Network, a Columbus company specializing in political campaigns that is headed by Ian James, the man who also serves as executive director for ResponsibleOhio. The board made the decision yesterday to issue subpoenas to James and the other leaders of the Strategic Network. James denies any intentional illegal wrongdoing and claims that his company has a "zero tolerance policy" toward fraud. It’s unclear who filled out and submitted the voter registration forms, but submitting a fraudulent voter registration form is a felony offense. James claims that the group is required by law to turn over every voter registration form it collects, even those that are invalid. 

• Less than a week after the tragic shooting at a Roseburg, Ore. community college, city councilman and U.S. Senate candidate P.G. Sittenfeld issue a statement asking his opponents to renounce their support for the National Rifle Association. The NRA has previously endorsed Republican candidate Rob Portman and fellow Democratic opponent Ted Strickland in its famous rating program where it assigns a letter grade to politicians. In his video statement, Sittenfeld asks that his opponents "no longer chase A+ ratings from the same organization that blocked a universal background check bill following a horrific massacre of five and six-year old children in Newtown." Sittenfeld is trailing behind former Ohio governor and fellow Democrat Strickland, who is widely known across the state and has secured the endorsement from the state's Democratic party. 

• Cincinnati is sitting on some serious cash. At the end of the 2015 fiscal year, the city has $19 million left over, which turned out to be way more than the initial $3.9 million the city predicted to have at the end of June. In a memo to Mayor John Cranley, City Manager Harry Black has requested they should it safe and save most of it but also included a sizable wish list. Many of the items requested are related to law enforcement and crime reduction, which has been a hot topic since Cincinnati has experienced a spike in shootings and Black recently fired of former police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell. Some of the items, which must be approved by the city council, included spending $2 million on a down payment for Cincinnati Police body cameras, $500,000 for police overtime in spots with heavy crime, $200,000 for a witness protection program and $175,000 for a partnership with Hamilton County to a program to support the re-entry of offenders. 

• Surely you've heard of Black Lives Matter by now, the group that has been active for the past few years in bringing attention to the issue of police brutality against African-Americans. Well, a new group has popped up in support of police called Blue Lives Matter and they've launched a national billboard campaign with 14 billboards across the country. The group is hoping to spread awareness and fight what it sees as anti-police rhetoric in the wake of high profile police shootings, including the July shooting in Mount Auburn of Sam Dubose by a University of Cincinnati police officer.

• International aid group Doctors Without Borders appealed yesterday for an independent agency to investigate the bombing of one of its clinics in Afghanistan last Saturday by U.S. special operation forces. The bombing killed 22 patients and medical staff members, including three children, and injured 37 people. The U.S. has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was trying to take out Taliban militants, and did not mean to hit the aid clinic, but U.S. military officials' stories keep changing, which has prompted suspicion from the international community of the U.S.'s mission.   

As always, email me with story idea, comments or general concerns.

by Nick Swartsell 10.06.2015 56 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley touts more money for cops, park plan in State of the City; Council poised to vote on King historic status; area districts push back against charter schools

Good morning folks. Let’s talk about news today, eh?

First off, let me tell you about Mayor John Cranley’s second State of the City speech, which he gave to a crowd of about 700 movers, shakers and awkward journalists (at least one awkward journalist) last night at Great American Ball Park.

The mayor is obligated by the city charter to give folks an update on what he’s up to once a year, and for Cranley that meant talking about economic development deals and balancing the budget, asking city council for $800,000 for new violence prevention measures and promoting his somewhat controversial parks levy, which would create an amendment to the city charter and raise property taxes slightly to give big makeovers to a number of Cincinnati parks.

Cranley also pledged to create a task force to explore ways to reduce childhood poverty and a healthcare initiative to reduce infant mortality in the city. He did all this while making a slightly convoluted metaphor about home runs and base hits and sharing a personal experience with the mythical double rainbow. We’ll be parsing the mayor’s proposals more precisely soon, but in the meantime, that’s the broad overview you need to know.

• As Cranley was making his speech last night, a group of around 50 gathered at City Hall to protest the looming closure of Cincinnati’s last women’s clinic that provides abortions. City Councilman Chris Seelbach spoke to the group, pledging support for Planned Parenthood and calling on fellow city officials to support the city’s last remaining clinic. A smaller group then marched to Great American Ball Park, chanting and holding signs asking Cranley to show support for the facility and for the pro-choice movement. The mayor, who has said he was unaware of the rally, did not make remarks to the group following his speech.

The Ohio Department of Health last month denied a license renewal for the Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn. The clinic is run by Planned Parenthood and has stayed open by order of a federal judge as it awaits the results of an appeal to that decision. Planned Parenthood Southwestern Ohio and legal representatives for Women’s Med clinic in Dayton that faces a similar situation have also sued the state of Ohio over its increasingly strict restrictions on clinics that provide abortions. Should the clinics lose their appeal in federal court, both will shut down. Without a clinic, Cincinnati would become the largest metropolitan area in the country without direct access to abortion services.

• After a somewhat contentious Neighborhoods Committee meeting yesterday, Cincinnati City Council is expected to vote tomorrow on historic landmark status for the former King Records site in Evanston, the Cincinnati Business Courier reports. That designation could make it much harder to tear down the buildings but could also spark a big legal battle reminiscent of the struggle over the Gamble House, the historic Westwood abode built by the son of one of P&G’s founders. That 170-year-old building was torn down in 2013. The site in Evanston is significant for a number of reasons, one of which is that it’s the place where James Brown made many of his early recordings. One of the two buildings on the site is currently owned by Dynamic Industries, which would like to tear it down. Want to know more about Evanston, King Records and the push and pull between the current owners of the could-be historic site and those looking to preserve the building? We have a story on that.

• A group composed of 43 school districts in Greater Cincinnati, including Cincinnati Public Schools, is pushing back against charter school expansion in the state. The Greater Cincinnati School Advocacy Network recently called for greater accountability for charter schools and changes to the way in which they are funded. GCSAN says charters unfairly drain public money from public school districts while not providing a better alternative for low-income students as they were intended to do. CPS loses thousands of students to local charters each year. The district says it’s not totally opposed to the concept — it sponsors two charter schools itself  — but warns that voters in the district are tired of seeing their money spent on private charter schools that don’t perform well.

The push back comes as charters in Ohio face deep scrutiny over an Ohio Department of Education data fixing scandal, performance issues and questions about oversight. In general, charters in the state have laxer oversight from the ODE and lower performance standards. You can read our story about charters in Cincinnati and throughout the state here.

• How much tax revenue will be created from legalizing marijuana if voters pass a ballot initiative doing so this November? Like most controversial political questions, it depends entirely on whom you ask. The Ohio Department of Taxation estimates revenues somewhere between $133 and almost $300 million could flow from the sale of marijuana. Not surprisingly, ResponsibleOhio, which created the petition drive to get the issue on the November ballot, has higher numbers, saying legalization would create $2 billion in marijuana sales, bringing municipalities and counties more than $554 million in revenue. The state’s estimates vary depending on assumptions about how much of the current illicit marijuana market switches to legal usage.

But ResponsibleOhio says the state erred in considering how many people use marijuana in Ohio and say its number is based on more reliable federal drug usage studies. What’s a few hundred million dollars, though, am I right? ResponsibleOhio’s proposal would legalize marijuana usage and purchase for anyone over the age of 21. The proposal would also create more than 1,000 licenses similar to liquor licenses for the sale of the drug. However, the controversial part of the plan is that only 10 grow sites, all owned by ResponsibleOhio investors, would be allowed across the state. Voters will have a chance to weigh in on the proposal on the November ballot.

by Nick Swartsell 10.05.2015 57 days ago
Posted In: News, Cycling at 12:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
to do_bright ride_photo urban basin bicycle club facebook page

Cincinnati Among Top Cities for Growth in Bicycle Commuting

Commuting by bike increased by 350 percent last year, the third-biggest increase among major cities

You may have seen recent 2014 American Community Survey data released by the U.S. Census Bureau showing that bicycle commuting continues to rise.

Cincinnati has been one of the cities leading the way in that growth, it turns out.

The League of American Bicyclists recently analyzed those ACS numbers and came up with data showing where cycling and bike commuting are biggest and growing fastest. While Cincinnati ranked 31st among the 70 biggest U.S. cities in terms of share of cyclists commuting to work (we’re at just under 1 percent), the number of bike commuters here is growing faster than just about anywhere else in the country.

Bike commuting in Cincinnati increased by 350 percent last year, according to the ACS. That’s more than any other major city besides Detroit, which saw a 403 percent boost, and Pittsburgh, which saw bicycle commuting go up by 360 percent.

Cincinnati easily beat out other Ohio cities, including Columbus (ranked 36th with .8 percent of commutes happening by bike) and Cleveland (ranked 40th with .7 percent).

The city with the top percentage of bicycle commuters is, predictably, Portland, Ore., where more than 7 percent of commutes are taken by bicycle. The city has more than 23,000 cyclists. Oregon is tops in terms of states when it comes to bike commuters, as well. Ohio is well down that list, ranking 36th.

As a bike commuter, I'm excited that I have more company on the roads. You can read the whole League of American Bicyclists report here.