CityBeat - Blogs http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs.engine.php <![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines.

A trial date has been set for former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, who fatally shot unarmed motorist Sam DuBose in Mount Auburn in July. Tensing will face murder and manslaughter charges brought against him by Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters on Oct. 24, a year and three months after he shot DuBose during a traffic stop. Tensing pulled DuBose over for a missing license plate. DuBose refused to exit his car, and after a brief struggle where Tensing reached into the ca and DuBose started his vehicle, the officer shot him. Tensing's next pre-trial hearing will be in April.

• Forty people marched downtown yesterday stopping in front of the John Weld Peck Federal Building on Main Street to protest the U.S. immigration policy.  The protest, which was coordinated with the Christian holiday of Ash Wednesday, was specifically calling on the feds' recent decision to start deporting women with young children and unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The march also comes a week after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided an East Price Hill apartment complex with a large number of Central Americans for unknown reasons. 

• Park Chili in Northside has new owners. The Cincinnati chili staple, which has been in operation since 1937, was bought by Steven and Susan Thompson to be operated by their daughter and son-in-law Allie Thompson and Kevin Pogo Curtis as The Park. Curtis previously operated Tacocracy on Hamilton Avenue. Curtis says they plan to keep it a cozy diner, and they even have the chili recipe from former owner Norm Bazoff, which they bought along with the restaurant. 

• U.S. Senate candidate and city councilman P.G. Sittenfeld may have gotten his biggest endorsement yet. Former Democratic Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste has come out in support of Sittenfeld. Sittenfeld is currently running against another former Ohio Gov., Ted Strickland, for the Democratic nomination. The winner of the March primary will face the Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman.

• A bill that would defund Planned Parenthood of Ohio is on its way to Gov. John Kasich's desk. Yesterday, while Kasich was celebrating his second place victory in the New Hampshire GOP primary, the House voted to approve the bill with the amendments added by the Senate. Some political analysts are asking if these two things were strategically planned. The House happened to vote on the legislation the day after the New Hampshire primary where the state's moderate Republicans are likely to be less supportive of defunding Planned Parenthood. But it could help Kasich at his next stop in South Carolina where the state's republicans are more stoked on the idea. Republican Senate President Keith Faber denied on Wednesday the vote was timed to boost Kasich's shot at the presidential nomination, but said he does think the bill will please South Carolina Republicans.

• Gov. John Kasich came in a distant second in the New Hampshire GOP primary. The Ohio governor grabbed just 16 percent of the vote to winner Donald Trump's 35 percent. But is it possible that Kasich can run as the anti-Trump? Exit-poll numbers showed that Kasich was grabbing a different demographic of Republicans than Trump. The ABC poll found that Kasich did much better with voters who wanted an experienced candidate and had post-graduate degrees. He got the vote of 22 percent of those with a grad school degree. Forty-five percent of Trump's supporters had a high school education. This article predicts that Kasich is drawing in a different kind of Republican: those who politely disagree with the state of the nation as opposed to those who are completely enraged by it.

Story tips go here. Stay warm out there!
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<![CDATA[Bill to Defund Planned Parenthood Heads to Kasich's Desk]]> A bill that would strip Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio of all government funding is on its way to Gov. John Kasich's desk. 

The Ohio House of Representatives today passed HB-294 with amendments added by the state Senate that would ban the Ohio Department of Health from distributing state and federal funds to centers that perform non-therapeutic abortions.

Health organizations are already prohibited from using state and federal funds toward abortion services. The bill will take this a step further by prohibiting federal funding for non-therapeautic abortions, meaning organizations that perform abortions as a result of rape or incest or those that are not medically necessary are banned as well. Along with non-therapeautic abortions, organizations like Planned Parenthood also use such funding for things like services that help prevent infant mortality, breast and cervical cancer, infertility, minority AIDS and HIV infection and teen STDs and pregnancy. The bill also bars the state from contracting or affiliating with any such organization.  

It would redirect the funding into other community health organizations like Women, Infant and Children (WIC) clinics.

If Kasich signs the bill into law, it will strip Planned Parenthood of Ohio, the largest abortion provider in the state, of the nearly $1.4 million it receives in government funds.

The added amendments would direct $250,000 toward infant mortality prevention efforts and allow pregnant women to go to government-sponsored medical programs while they are applying for Medicaid, instead of waiting until after they are approved. 

Ohio ranks 45th highest in the U.S. for infant mortality, with 7.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, according the 2013 Centers for Disease Control's National Vital Statistics Reports. 

On the House floor, Democrats argued that even though the bill's amendments were directing more resources toward an issue like infant mortality prevention, the bill overall is causing greater harm by stripping an organization like Planned Parenthood of funding it already uses for that purpose. 

Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) said the majority of Planned Parenthood clinics in the state tackle educational issues like this and do not perform abortions.

"You are not defunding abortions with this bill," she said.  

Rep. Kristina Roegner (R-Akron) said she believes the two items are mutually exclusive.

"The rate of infant mortality rate for aborted babies is 100 percent," said Roegner. 

The legislation is the latest move in a long string of new requirements lawmakers have passed for abortion providers.  

Proponents of the requirements say the laws are intended to improve safety standards at abortion providers. Opponents say they are bureaucratic red tape aimed at reducing the number of clinics performing abortions. 

A 2009 law requires that abortion clinics have a patient-transfer agreement with a public hospital but can request a variance, or exception, if they are unable to do so. 

Planned Parenthood in Mount Auburn and the Women's Med Clinic, the last two abortion providers in southwest Ohio, nearly lost their licenses to perform the procedure earlier this year when the Department of Health denied the clinics' request for a variance 

Planned Parenthood sued the state, and a judge ruled in October that the clinics are allowed to operate during the lawsuit. 

If the clinics lose their licenses, Cincinnati would be the largest metropolitan area in the country without access to abortion services. 

Stephanie Kight, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, told the Enquirer that its health education programs will see the most funding cuts under HB-294.  

Erin Smiley, a health educator at Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, told CityBeat last October the organization stands to lose a $300,000 federal grant for a sex education class for adjudicated and foster care youth it teaches across 18 Ohio counties. 

"I would welcome anyone, the legislature, Senators, whomever, if anyone ever wanted to come and see what our messages are really like and see the impacts that we have and how these young people are empowered by this information," Smiley said. "I really believe it would be hard for those folks to think that what they're doing right now is the best for young people."

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<![CDATA[Clinton's New Hampshire Defeat Highlights Campaign Issues with Women]]>

Bernie Sanders clobbered Hillary Clinton in his neighboring state of New Hampshire last night, and the early dominant performance could send shockwaves through Clinton’s operations.

Once seen as an afterthought in the Democratic primary, Sanders took the Granite State in an impressive 60-percent victory over the former secretary of state’s 38.3 percent.

"Nine months ago, if you told somebody that we would win the New Hampshire primary, they would not have believed you," the Sanders campaign wrote to supporters. With 11 percent of the votes counted, Clinton conceded defeat early in the evening.

“I know what it’s like to be knocked down — and I’ve learned from long experience that it’s not whether you get knocked down that matters. It’s about whether you get back up,” Clinton’s campaign said.

Shortly before Clinton conceded defeat, Sanders’ supporters gathered for a victory speech. Cheers erupted, “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” and chants of “We don’t need no Super PAC” were blared when TV cameras went live as the 74-year-old took the stage with his wife.

"The people of New Hampshire have sent a profound message to the political establishment, the economic establishment and, by the way, to the media establishment," Sanders said in his victory speech.

"What the people here have said is that given the enormous crises facing our country, it is just too late for the same-old, same-old establishment politics and establishment economics — the people want real change."

Sanders’ senior strategist Tad Devine said in an MSNBC interview that they believe this was the biggest margin of victory in a contested Democratic primary in history.

Going through the election results, there is virtually nothing for Clinton to claim as a morale victory. Her margin of losing was too great with most voters.

New Hampshire exit polls show 85 percent of women under 30 voted for Sanders. He won 53 percent of the women’s vote overall.

Clinton fell short with every age group except those 65 and older among both genders.

"We are a better organized campaign,” Devine said. We have more people on the ground. And as of today I believe we have more resources, campaign to campaign, to expand. We are demonstrating that resource superiority by going on television all across this country, and it is our ability to organize people — which I think we showed in Iowa, and showed again tonight in New Hampshire.”

One of Clinton’s talking points has been her historic candidacy — the prospect of the first female president has been a major selling point.

However, the gender-politics element of the fight for the Democratic nomination has gotten ugly over the past few days with the recent comment by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright saying, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

One Friday’s episode of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, feminist icon Gloria Steinem suggested that Clinton’s lack of support with young women is because they’re meeting boys at Sanders rallies.

“When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie,” Steinem said.

These comments were largely seen as dismissive and sexist, suggesting young women are not politically savvy enough to make their own choices. This rhetoric of shaming women — or any American — into voting for a specific candidate is ugly.

It is a safe bet that these troubling comments did not come from a campaign script, however, this brand of entitlement is exactly what is hurting Clinton with young voters.

We can easily sum up why Bernie Sanders wants to be president — his stump speech is simple: The top one-tenth of the one percent control too much wealth; we have gross injustice in campaign finance, and that it is a moral outrage that Americans might have to go into severe debt for healthcare and education.

Why is Clinton running for president? I’m not entirely sure, and I do not think there is that simple elevator pitch she can give to a voter.

I do not doubt Clinton’s ability to hold the Oval Office. However, I cannot easily identify what her key issues are and where her passions lie.

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<![CDATA[Slice of Cincinnati: Cincinnati Observatory]]>

To the naked eye, there are not very many stars visible in the Cincinnati night sky. However, a look through one of Cincinnati Observatory’s telescopes on a clear day makes it possible to catch a glimpse of the galaxy. It’s no wonder that the observatory’s assistant director and outreach astronomer Dean Regas says the most common reaction from visitors is "Wow."

Watching folks look through a telescope for the first time is his favorite part of the job. “They put their eye up to the telescope, and their eyes literally light up,” Regas says. “The light comes from millions to trillions of miles away through the telescope, down the tube, into their eye, and you can see their eyes light up.” He says visitors’ entire faces will then relax into a smile.

Most people do not know what to expect when they walk into Cincinnati Observatory. In fact, Regas himself didn’t know what to expect when he first visited the observatory in 1998 when he attended an event to view a comet passing by.

“It’s a very intimate moment with the universe. I think we really excite people’s imaginations a lot,” he says. “They see a bigger picture of things, in some ways.” Sparking this interest in the universe is at the core of the observatory’s mission. Since it opened to the public in 2000, the observatory has been dedicated to educating all generations and preserving the history of the site.

While it is the first major observatory in the Western Hemisphere, it is also home to the oldest public telescope in the U.S. Built in Germany in 1843, the telescope was first located in Mount Adams on the highest point in Cincinnati. (Just picture 173 years’ worth of eyeballs peering out into space as you look through the telescope).

However, coal smoke and other pollution flooding the valley made it impossible to look at the sky. The telescope was moved to a more remote, rural area for optimal viewing in 1873.

It’s because of the telescope that two of Cincinnati’s seven hills go their names. The telescope’s former home got its name when John Quincy Adams dedicated the observatory, and the land surrounding the telescope’s new home was dubbed Mount Lookout.

The telescope is now house in a smaller building on the observatory’s property, while a telescope purchased in 1904 is housed in the main building. Both are still in use.

Before opening to the public in 2000, the observatory had long been neglected and was seldom in use. “It was hard to notice the creepy building at the end of the street,” Regas says. “It looked like it was abandoned — trees were all over the place, ivy was growing on the buildings — it was black because of the pollution, and they used the telescopes maybe a dozen times a year.”

The old building came back to life when neighborhood residents and a group of amateur astronomers teamed up to reinvigorate the observatory. Yet with its old-fashioned wood floors and furnishings, stepping into the observatory is like taking a leap back in time. Since its rebirth, attendance at the observatory has gone from 1,000 visitors per year to 26,000.

“To think that there are institutions like this in our city makes it a richer city,” Regas says.

In addition to being open to the public every Thursday and Friday, there are many different classes offered at the observatory, including programs for beginners and continuing education classes for adults. It is a destination for many school field trips and special events such as Moon-day Monday and Late Night Date Night. Regas says many events become sold out within seconds of the signup being uploaded to the observatory’s website.

Visitors can look forward to special events each time planets move to their optimal viewing positions, with Jupiter Night on March 12, Marsapalooza on June 11 and Saturnday on July 9. You can also take classes at the observatory to learn how to map out the plants’ movements yourself. Whether you’d like to take classes, catch a glimpse of space or just take a tour of the historic building, that building at the end of a cul-de-sac in Mount Lookout that you never noticed has something for everyone.


For more information on the CINCINNATI OBSERVATORY: cincinnatiobservatory.org.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines. 

Recently-released federal airfare data says that flying out of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport is no longer cheaper than flying out of Dayton. The average ticket price is $427 for both. As someone who frequently flies out of every Tri-State area airport but CVG, I'm skeptical, but hopeful. But if CVG can strike a deal with Southwest Airlines, then I'm there. 

• Rhinegeist's Cidergeist is all grown up and is heading out east. The company announced its taking its hard cider to Boston by the end of this month followed by New York at some point. Co-founder Bryant Goulding said the Cincinnati-based microbrewery chose to debut its cider over its beer because market for craft cider market is currently stronger than one for the craft brewing.

• The Ohio House is expected to vote on today on the bill that would strip Planned Parenthood of $1.3 million it receives in state funding. HB 294 would bar health organizations who perform non-therapeutic abortions from receiving state and federal funding. The Senate, which passed the bill on Jan. 27, added minor amendments to the legislation requiring the House's approval before it can go to Gov. Kasich's desk. 

• Public health officials have reported the first two cases of the Zika virus in Ohio and one in Indiana. The Ohio Department of Health confirmed yesterday that a Cleveland woman who had recently returned from Haiti and a Stark County man who also just been to Haiti tested positive for the virus. The virus, which is transmitted through mosquitoes, is most concerning for pregnant women as it has been linked to birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken the unusual precaution of recommending U.S. travelers avoid 22 countries in South and Central America. 

• Gov. John Kasich proved he's holding tight to the presidential race in New Hampshire. After aggressively spending the last month campaigning there, Kasich finished second last night in the state's GOP primary behind Donald Trump. Trump, who finished second behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the Iowa caucuses, grabbed 35 percent of New Hampshire's Republican vote. Kasich, who took 15 percent, didn't exactly come in a close second, but the victory has flung him back into the category of legit GOP presidential candidates. At the very least, it means he won't be dropping out any time soon. 

On the other side, Democratic candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders crushed opponent Hillary Clinton even more than expected. Sanders grabbed 60 percent of the vote as compared to 34 percent for Clinton--the largest gap in New Hampshire's history. Political analysis, however, are predicting a rockier road ahead for Sanders as the candidates head to South Carolina and Nevada. The two states have higher Hispanic and African-American populations, which have shown stronger support for Clinton.


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<![CDATA[Local Lawmakers Call on Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice to Consider Grand Jury Reform]]> Black lawmakers from the Ohio General Assembly today met with Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to press for changes to the state’s grand jury process, including greater transparency in what are currently secret proceedings. 

The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, which includes State Sen. Cecil Thomas and president State Rep. Alicia Reece from Cincinnati, has pushed for grand jury reform in the state in the aftermath of police shooting deaths of unarmed black citizens, including 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland and 21-year-old John Crawford III in Beavercreek. Grand juries declined to indict officers involved in either of those shootings.

State Sens. Sandra Williams of Cleveland and Edna Brown of Toledo also attended the meeting with O’Connor.

“Many of our constituents around the state are calling for action after the year-long grand jury process that culminated in the decision to bring zero charges against the officers that shot and killed 12 year-old Tamir Rice, and the lack of charges in the police shooting of John Crawford,” Reece said in a statement. “We look forward to working with both the Supreme Court chief justice and our colleagues in the legislature to enact meaningful justice reforms that keep us safe, treat citizens fairly and restore faith and transparency in our justice system.”

Late last month, O’Connor announced she would convene an 18-member panel to review the state’s grand jury process, which has been in Ohio’s constitution since it was written in 1802. Currently, grand juries meet in secret to consider evidence presented by law enforcement authorities and prosecutors, then decide whether or not to indict a suspect. That has led many to question whether the proceedings, and the decisions grand juries reach, are just and impartial.

The panel will consider changes to the system but will not look at a full removal of the grand jury system as some activists have called for. Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Stephen McIntosh will chair the group, which has its first meeting Feb. 17. O’Connor has asked for a report on suggested changes from the group by June.

Rice was on a playground playing with a toy pistol in November 2014 when a neighbor called police to say someone was pointing a gun at passersby. That caller stipulated the gun was “probably fake” and that the person was a minor. That information wasn’t relayed to officers, however, who pulled a police cruiser within feet of Rice. Officer Timothy Loehmann exited the cruiser and shot Rice within seconds, video footage of the incident shows. A Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to press charges against him.

Crawford was in a Beavercreek Walmart with a toy rifle over his shoulder when another shopper called police, reporting he was pointing it at customers. Security footage of the incident doesn’t show Crawford pointing the toy at others, and when police arrived, he had it slung over his shoulder. Crawford was shot by officers and died shortly afterward. A Greene County grand jury did not indict officers in that case.

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<![CDATA[Clinton and Sanders to Spar in Flint]]> CNN is set to host the sixth Democratic debate of the cycle. The Democratic National Committee scheduled the March 6 debate in Flint, Mich.

The Flint debate came after presidential hopefuls Sen. Bernie Sanders’ and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns agreed to additional debates which were motivated by a virtual tie in the Iowa caucuses.

Clinton’s campaign challenged Sanders to an unsanctioned debate on MSNBC at the University of New Hampshire, following their photo-finish race in the Hawkeye State. The DNC officialized the debate, propelling the first time the former secretary of state and the Vermont senator went one-on-one.

Flint’s debate is one of two more debates the Clinton campaign agreed to in exchange for the University of New Hampshire debate.

In the midst of Flint’s water crisis, the town has been at the top of both of the Democratic candidates’ talking points — highlighting what is at stake in this election and what the Democratic party can offer in terms of economic power and regulation.

Sanders went as far to call for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s resignation.

“And I think the governor has got to take the responsibility and say, ‘You know what, my administration was absolutely negligent and a result of that negligence, many children may suffer for the rest of their lives and the right thing to do is to resign,” Sanders said in an interview with The Detroit News.

Sanders further blasted the governor's response to the water crisis during the University of New Hampshire debate, saying, “A man who acts that irresponsibly should not stay in power.” The Vermont senator added that this is the first time he has ever called for the resignation of another politician.

Flint was a stop on Clinton’s campaign trail Sunday as she urged Congress to pass a $200 million effort to fix the ailing city’s water infrastructure.

"This has to be a national priority," Clinton said at the House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church. "What happened in Flint is immoral. The children of Flint are just as precious as the children of any part of America."

Clinton praised Flint Mayor Karen Weaver as "someone who is working every way she knows how to provide the help and support that all the people of Flint deserve to have." The Flint Water Crisis started in April 2014 after the city changed its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River — the new water source is contaminated with lead, prompting President Obama to declare a state of emergency.

The Flint River’s corrosion is caused by aged pipes that leach lead into the water supply. The EPA estimates thousands of residents are at risk of lead poisoning, and has recommended testing 12,000 children. The water is also possible responsible for an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, killing 10 people.

The Michigan Army National Guard was deployed to Flint to assist in the crisis and President Obama has allocated $80 million in government aid.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

Will Cincinnati and Hamilton County opt to stop working together on the Metropolitan Sewer District? Recent statements by Mayor John Cranley and Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel suggest that the two governments are more CeeLo Green than Al Green right now and that the idea is at least on the table. Since 2014, the two governments have cooperated on MSD, which is owned by the county but run by the city. But things between the city and county haven’t been all that cozy lately, and recent revelations that MSD may have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on contracts without competitive bids haven’t helped matters.

Now officials are at least floating the idea of splitting up — perhaps even dividing MSD’s assets and letting the two governments run separate systems. There are, of course, complications, not the least of which would be the enormous complexity of divvying up one of the county’s largest infrastructure systems serving 800,000 residents. The city says it should be the one solely in charge of MSD, while the county makes a similar claim. Meanwhile, the two governments will have to continue to cooperate on a federal court-ordered $3 billion renovation of the sewer district, no matter what they decide.

• While the above-mentioned $680 million sketchy procurement process was taking place at MSD under former director Tony Parrott, an oversight board that could have put checks on the potential improper spending was fading into the background, The Enquirer reports. That independent oversight board hasn’t operated since 2008, and no records exist of any audits of MSD’s activity from that group. Cincinnati City Councilman Kevin Flynn has been calling for funds and support to beef up that board over the past few months and has renewed his calls for increased oversight ahead of an audit of MSD by Ohio Auditor Dave Yost. The city’s administrative code calls for such an oversight board, though cities aren’t required by law to maintain them. It’s unclear why Cincinnati abandoned its board in 2008 under Mayor Mark Mallory. City officials, including City Manager Harry Black, have said they’re in the process of reviving the board, but that it currently has five vacancies and can’t operate until they’re filled.

• Two neighborhood councils are pushing the city to keep, and expand, the controversial Central Parkway Bikeway, memos to the city reveal. Both Clifton Town Meeting and the Over-the-Rhine Community Council passed resolutions late last month and sent letters to the city administration and City Council asking that the lane be expanded for safety and economic development purposes. You can read more about that in our blog post here.

• Ohio has 10 times the number of failing charter schools as it has previously reported, according to a letter from the state to the federal government. The Department of Education says 57 Ohio charter schools are failing, not six, as the state originally stated. The state also has about half the number of high-performing charters it has recently touted, according to the letter, which was sent as Ohio works to regain access to a $71 million federal school choice grant that the DOE awarded last year and subsequently suspended last November following a charter school data rigging scandal here.

• It’s the big day for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. New Hampshire primary voters head out to the polls today for the country’s first primary (yes, candidates were vying for voter attention in Iowa last week, but that state has a caucus, which is a different system). Kasich has indicated he will drop out of the GOP presidential primary if he doesn’t do well in the state, so we could be talking about the last day of morning news updates on the big queso’s campaign. Heartbreaking.

Kasich is polling well in the state, however, and might finish as high as second place, especially after U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, his main rival there, did pretty poorly in this weekend’s GOP debate. Kasich has spent a lot of time focusing on the Granite State, holding more than 100 town hall appearances there. He even beat Trump 3 votes to 2 in tiny Dixville, N.H. Side note: If you want to know how New Hampshire became the first voters in the primary process, this article has all the interesting political history you need.

• Finally, how much has all of Kasich’s traveling around the country with a security entourage cost Ohio taxpayers? Probably a lot. The Associated Press reports that non-highway security expenditures for the Ohio Highway Patrol have gone from $17,000 a year during Kasich’s first year in office to more than $350,000 in 2015. While that segment of highway patrol funding is primarily used for the governor’s security detail, officials with the patrol say other out of state costs are also involved in that number. They also point out that spending categories changed in 2011, so the two numbers might not be an apples to apples comparison. Still, it’s clear that expenditures have gone up during Kasich’s time in office and that taxpayers have footed some of the bill for the extensive traveling he’s done as he runs for the nation’s highest office.

I’m out. Tweet. Email. You know what’s up.

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<![CDATA[Neighborhood Councils Renew Push for Stalled Bike Lane Expansions]]>

Community councils for two popular Cincinnati neighborhoods are urging the city to expand its bike lane program, which has stalled after the 2014 completion of a major protected lane leading downtown.

Both Clifton Town Meeting and the Over-the-Rhine Community Council passed resolutions last month reiterating support for the sometimes-controversial Central Parkway Bikeway and pushing for expansions to that bike project and others like it.

"Clifton Town Meeting desires to make Clifton into a premier bicycling community within Greater Cincinnati in order to improve the vibrancy, safety and overall health of visitors and residents," a Jan. 20 letter to city administration and Council reads. "To do so requires continued investment in on-street infrastructure such as the Central Parkway Bikeway, bike lanes, sharrows and bicycle-related signage."

That letter goes on to ask that the city not make changes to the bikeway that would deprive cyclists of a dedicated, protected lane.

Over-the-Rhine's community council, led by Ryan Messer, sent a similar message to the city Jan. 28, saying the council strongly supports the lane and hopes to see it extended in the near future. The letter cites successes with similar lanes in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, quoting research and news reports stating that the lanes increase rider safety.

"Experience with the Central Parkway bike lane has been positive," Messer wrote in his letter to the city. "There has not been an impact on traffic and ridership numbers continue to rise. When the bike lane is completed with a projected lane to and from Ludlow [Ave. in Clifton], we expect ridership to grow even more as it provides the connection to Clifton, Northside and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College."

Not all communication to Council was positive about the lanes, however. Councilman Christopher Smitherman presented a letter to Council today from Robert Schwartz that called the lane a "embarrassingly awful" and called for it to be removed. In the letter, dated late December of last year, Schwartz presented a list of 16 reasons why the lane should be removed, including confusion over parking, damaged plastic markers that are "a blight on what used to be a very picturesque street" and an accident that happened in Dec. 2013, before the lane was installed. Schwartz said he feared more such accidents would happen due to the lane.

The Central Parkway Bikeway was completed in 2014 after multiple bouts of political wrangling. The protected bike lane uses plastic partitions to separate cyclists from drivers along the four-lane stretch of the Central Parkway running from Clifton, through the West End and University Heights and into Over-the-Rhine and downtown. The lane was initially proposed in a bike plan Cincinnati City Council passed in 2010, and Council in 2013 voted unanimously to build it using $500,000 in mostly federal money. 

But that was before Mayor John Cranley took office. Cranley wanted Council to reconsider the lane, saying he preferred off-street bike paths such as the proposed Wasson Way trail that would go through much of Cincnnati's East Side on the way to Avondale. Council narrowly approved the lane in a 5-4 vote. Then there was contention about parking spaces that had to be ironed out with local business owners.

Even the construction of the lane didn't end the debate. Drivers and some local business owners say the lanes, which require motorists to park in Central Parkway's outside lanes during business hours, make traffic in the area more dangerous. News reports highlighted the fact that some of the plastic dividers along the lane had been run over and that some 33 accidents had happened along Central Parkway since they had been installed. That led Cranley last summer to say he was interested in removing the lanes.

"I've got plans to build dedicated bike trails on Oasis and Wasson Way and Mill Creek," the mayor said last summer, "but those are off the road, dedicated lanes, not in the middle of traffic like Central Parkway, which is a major artery into downtown. I think they should scrap it before somebody gets hurt. I think it's been a disaster and I hope that City Council will reverse course and stop it."

National research, like this 2014 study by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities, tends to show that bike lanes increase safety, ridership and neighborhood desirability. The NITC study found that ridership numbers at newly installed lanes in Austin, Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Portland, Ore., boosted ridership between 21 and 171 percent, while increasing perceptions of safety and the overall desirability of the neighborhoods they were in for residents and visitors. However, those cities are generally less car-dependent than Cincinnati.

New attention to bike safety has come in the days after the hit-and-run death in Anderson of Michale Prater, who was an active member of the city's cycling community. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld last week introduced a motion asking the city to study particularly dangerous intersections for cyclists and pedestrians and suggest ways of mitigating that danger. Meanwhile, cycling advocates and neighborhood councils continue to push for protected lanes.

"We need and endorse the full usage of roads for cyclists for a full and productive lifestyle, not just for riding on off-road trails," the Clifton Town Meeting letter concludes.

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<![CDATA[Primary Cheat Sheet: Hillary Clinton]]>

Hillary Clinton (Democratic)

Fun Fact:

Then-Senator Hillary Clinton had a vodka-drinking contest against Sen. John McCain (R-AZ.) when the two were touring Estonia in 2004, possibly the most legendary drinking story in modern politics.

“We agreed to withdraw, in honorable fashion, having, I think, reached the limits that either of us should have had,” the Democratic frontrunner said in a campaign video. There are unconfirmed reports of Clinton besting Sen. McCain with four shots of vodka, however the former first lady called the game a tie. 

What’s up with the campaign?

Until her virtual tie in the Iowa caucus, Clinton’s campaign has been virtually in cruise control. While the former secretary of state may have had to move to the left a bit on some issues with the surprise threat of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), her rhetoric has mostly stayed in the center.

Aside from New Hampshire, Clinton has stayed on top of the polls, raised more money than any other candidate on either side of the aisle and seemingly has the backing of the entire establishment.

Voters might like:

      Clinton has one of the thickest resumes of any presidential candidate in history. Being a first lady is not usually a political job, but she was the first wife of a president to create an office in the West Wing. She led the way for subsidized health care in the ’90s with the Health Security Act, informally called “Hillarycare.”

      She went on to serve as senator of New York from 2001-2009. After losing her bid for the presidency to Barack Obama, she was appointed to secretary of state — giving her a huge advantage on foreign policy over Sanders.

      Some consider Clinton’s centrist policies as a weakness. However, her consistently not falling into liberalism will likely be the key to winning the general election if she earns the Democratic nomination. Clinton is not calling for free college education, a high minimum wage or universal healthcare — considering how far to the right Congress is at this point might lead to her being a successful president in the early years of her first term.

...but what out for

      Clinton spent more than a decade opposing gay rights. The former secretary of state did not support gay marriage until 2013. “I take umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage, or to the fundamental bedrock principle that it exists between a man and a woman,” Clinton said in 2004.

      Most Americans are weary of getting into another war, and the Iraq War is largely considered one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in American history. Clinton was a part of the 58 percent of senate Democrats who voted in favor of the Iraq Resolution, which authorized President George W. Bush’s invasion.

      On both sides of the aisle, career politicians and the establishment have become toxic. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the country that is more establishment or embodies political privilege more than Clinton. The $600,000 she received in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs and millions in corporate donations have raised a lot of eyebrows in this new political climate that is increasingly skeptical of big-money interests.

Biggest policy proposal:

The United States is one of the only developed nations in the world that does not have guaranteed paid family leave. A lot of career jobs offer paid time off, however it is not guaranteed by law — this mostly affects those in low-income jobs. Clinton says she aims to guarantee up to 12 weeks of paid family leave with two-thirds of wages. The campaign claims this will also be accomplished without a mandate on the employer or an increase in payroll tax.

War:

Clinton does not support conventional ground troops conducting combat operations in Iraq or Syria. However, she is in favor of continuing Obama’s air campaign and using Special Operations forces.


The primaries are elections in which the parties pick their strongest candidate to run for president. In Ohio, Election Day is Tuesday, March 15, 2016. Go here for more information on primaries. CityBeat will be profiling each of the candidates every week until the primaries in March.
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

The Cincinnati Planning Commission has approved plans for a 131-unit apartment complex downtown. The $52 million complex will be at Eighth and Sycamore streets pending the approval of City Council as early as next week. The parking garage and apartments are part of a larger development plan for the city-owned site, which will also feature up to 10,000 square feet of street-level retail space. The Cincinnati City Center Development Corp., or 3CDC, will build a 500-car parking garage, while Cincy-based North American Properties is in charge of constructing the actual units. If plans are approved, the parking complex could be ready as early as June, but the apartments won't be completed until the second half of 2017 at least. 

• Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Over-the-Rhine is calling on community support to help keep its winter shelter open to the homeless through Feb. 29. Rev. John Suguitan says the church is short the funds necessary to keep its doors open through one of the coldest months of the year. The church, which is located on Race Street, has focused on community outreach since 1969 and currently has 45 spots available for homeless individuals to stay overnight.  

• A report from Disability Rights Ohio found major issues with the enforcement a 2013 Ohio law limiting the seclusion and restraint of students for the convenience of staff members.The rule requires schools to report such incidents to Ohio's Department of Education. But, according to the report, many instances still go unreported. Under the law, the DOE lacks the authority to force schools to do so and the schools face no punishment for not complying. It also found many schools were also not notifying parents if their child had been restrained or secluded, which is also a requirement of the law. 

• Chicago police officer Robert Rialmo, who fatally shot a 19-year-old black man and unarmed bystander in December, is suing the teenager's estate for more than $10 million. The officer claims the Dec. 26 confrontation that lead to the death of teen Quintonio LeGrier, who was holding a baseball bat, and 55-year-old Bettie Jones, caused him "extreme emotional trauma." The shooting is still under investigation. 

• I managed to file my taxes yesterday more than two months before the deadline. It seemed more interesting than watching the Super Bowl, and they were also much easier to figure out than when I lived outside the country. Apparently, more than 4,000 American citizens would agree with me. Last year, 4,279 people, a record high, ditched their U.S. citizen and permanent citizenship statuses. The trend has taken off in recent year, caused by complicated U.S. tax laws for American citizens and permanent residents living abroad. Unlike most of the world, the U.S. taxes Americans on their income regardless of where their permanent home is, making paperwork super complex and difficult, and for many, not worth holding their citizenship anymore, I guess.]]>
<![CDATA[Stage Door]]>

Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey met with great success when they created next to normal, winning several Tony Awards and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama. They didn’t strike gold with their next show, If/Then, onstage locally for just a week in a touring production — but I found it to be a very satisfying, if complex work. (Read my Curtain Call interview with Kitt and Yorkey here.) Elizabeth is recently divorced and trying to decide what path to take next. She asks herself musically “What If” she takes this path or that — and this show lets us follow her down two divergent threads, one toward a successful professional career as a city planner in New York, the other in a happy marriage with kids that doesn’t quite turn out as she imagined. Her stories are presented in overlapping narratives, since some moments and events are quite close. It requires paying close attention, but it’s definitely worth the effort. It’s made all the easier by a very strong cast — including Jackie Burns in the leading role, Broadway veteran Anthony Rapp as Lucas, one of her close friends (he originated the role on Broadway Lucas and played videographer Mark in the original cast of Rent back in 1996) and Tamyra Gray as Kate, who pushes Elizabeth in a different direction. The show’s inventive staging, using video and fluidly moving set pieces, is also a fine example of contemporary theater design. Definitely worth seeing. Onstage through Sunday. 

In BlackTop Sky at Know Theatre, Ida’s view from an asphalt-paved courtyard surrounded by the housing project where she lives isn’t pretty.  The 18-year-old yearns to escape, but her avenues are limited. The safe, predictable route is with Wynn, her boyfriend, a hardworking auto mechanic. Then there’s Klass, an all-but-inarticulate homeless man who settle on two park benches. Ida is caught between these two poles. This is a show about lives that are pretty dead-end. Nevertheless, Christina Anderson’s script has its moments, especially with Kimberly Faith Hickman’s purposeful staging of 34 distinct scenes, several of them entirely wordless. Anderson writes with occasional lyricism and feeling, but desperation underlies these sad stories. That being said, the telling holds out a promise of change. That’s an important if not altogether entertaining message. Onstage through Feb. 20.

Also at Know, the fourth outing of Serials gets under way on Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. They’ve dubbed this one Thunderdome 2 – Beyond Thunder, meaning that each evening two of the five shows will be voted out by the audience, to be replaced by two new shows at the following session. Serials 4 features some writers and directors who entertained audiences in previous iterations of Serials. But several new talents have entered the fray, and the Know staff tells me, “There are some seriously strong story pitches this round!” They feel that the “gentle competition” of Thunderdome leads to stronger writing and a better audience experience. Writers who take the challenge must leap quickly into their narratives; if they lag behind, they’ll be struck by a thunderclap and end up in the audience at the next round. Subsequent episodes are set for Feb. 22, March 7 and 21 and April 4.

Finally: If you’re tuned in to the Super Bowl on Sunday evening, keep an eye out for a 30-second commercial for Gold Star Chili. It was shot locally, featuring 15 Cincinnati actors at several Gold Star locations. Ensemble Theatre’s Lynn Meyers did the casting for it, so you’ll see some familiar faces often featured on local stages. 


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

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<![CDATA[Your Weekend To Do List (2/5-2/7)]]> FRIDAY

EVENT: MAINSTRASSE MARDI GRAS

Laissez les bons temps rouler, y’all! Break out your beads for MainStrasse’s 20th-annual Mardi Gras parade and party. Events kick off Friday with New Orleans-style drinks and dancing at MainStrasse bars. Then the Grande Parade Saturday features a raucous collection of floats, Big Heads and various wandering intoxicated people weaving through the town starting at 9 p.m. Baubles, bangles and beads available at MainStrasse businesses. Friday and Saturday. Free. MainStrasse Village, Sixth Street, Covington, Ky., 859-491-0458, mainstrasse.org

Terri Kendall
Photo: greateyefilms
DANCE: PERFORMANCE & TIME ARTS
Produced and directed by Shakira Rae Adams and co-producer Jacque Corcoran, Contemporary Dance Theater’s Performance & Time Arts this weekend rolls out a typically diverse mix of music, dance, poetry and multimedia from local performers. Aerialist Terri Kendall’s acrobatic “The Spirited Crow” is dramatic yet whimsical and includes some challenging poses and rolls. Performing flow wand is Samiya Shamma, a freshman at Cincinnati State studying sign language interpreting. She has studied gymnastics and dance over the years and learned flow wand with the My Nose Turns Red youth circus. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. $12-$15. College Hill Town Hall, 1805 Larch Ave., College Hill, cdt-dance.org.

Eli's BBQ
Photo: Sarah Urmston
EATS: CINCINNATI MEAT WEEK
Cincy Meat Week continues through Sunday, with events at different local barbecue joints. Eli’s BBQ hosts #SuperBBQSunday starting at 1 p.m. More info meatweek.com/cities/cincinnati.

Carolyn Wonderland
Photo: Sandra Dahdah
MUSIC: CINCY WINTER BLUES FEST
This Friday and Saturday, the Cincy Blues Society’s Winter Blues Fest returns to The Phoenix (812 Race St., Downtown, thephx.com) showcasing over two-dozen Cincinnati Blues acts, as well as headliners like the Nick Moss Band and Carolyn Wonderland on four stages. Music begins at 6 p.m. Friday and 5:15 p.m. Saturday. This year’s lineup shows just how celebrated our local Blues scene is, with many acclaimed and award-winning and nominated artists slated to appear. Read more here.

ONSTAGE: IF/THEN
Cincinnati audiences loved Ensemble Theatre’s 2011 production of next to normal, Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Rock musical about a woman afflicted with paranoid schizophrenia. In fact, ETC revived it in 2012 at the end of the same season. Unlike many current Broadway hits, the show wasn’t a musical version of a movie or a collection of familiar Pop tunes. Kitt and Yorkey’s second Broadway collaboration, the musical If/Then, is another show that’s wholly their own creation. It’s currently onstage at the Aronoff Center. Read more about the play here. If/Then continues through Sunday at the Aronoff Center. More info/tickets: cincinnatiarts.org.

Native Gardens
Photo: Mikki Schaffner
ONSTAGE: NATIVE GARDENS
When longtime, waspy residents are proud of their formal garden and the young Hispanic couple moving in next door prefer a more natural “native garden,” the temperature goes up. And when there’s a dispute about the property line, well, then there’s outright warfare. This world premiere by Karen Zacarías will entertain audiences (her Book Club Play did the same in 2013), but they’ll also think about how we get along with people who aren’t just like us. Kudos to the Playhouse for commissioning a new play by this skilled playwright. Kudos to the Playhouse for commissioning a new play by this skilled playwright. Through Feb. 21. $30-$85. Playhouse in the Park, 962 Mount Adams Circle, Mount Adams, 513-421-3888, cincyplay.com

TV: VICE
The Nigerian government sets out to eradicate Boko Haram, but the hunt for insurgents presents more danger; scientists have simplified the gene-editing method, making it easier than ever to retool human evolution. Vice, Season Premiere, 11 p.m., HBO.


SATURDAY

Garage Brewed Moto Show
Photo: Provided
EVENT: GARAGE BREWED MOTO SHOW

Rhinegeist will be packed with 50 custom bikes from builders all over the Midwest, who range in experience from professional builders to those who build straight outta their home garage. Come view the bikes, many of which were made specifically for the show, and vote for your favorite. That’s right, there are no professional judges. Builders will compete for the guests’ attention — and votes — during the moto show. 5 p.m.-midnight. Saturday. Free. Rhinegeist, 1910 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, garagebrewed.com

'Remember'
Photo: via IMDb
FILM: JEWISH & ISRAELI FILM FESTIVAL OPENING NIGHT
The Mayerson JCC hosts a month-long festival of thought-provoking, controversial and inspiring films at theaters throughout Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Featuring the work of both established and emerging filmmakers, selections include Jewish-interest films produced in and outside of Israel. The event kicks off Saturday with a screening of Remember at The Carnegie. The thriller follows an elderly man and Auschwitz survivor (Christopher Plummer) in his search — aided by a hand-written letter and fellow survivor — for the person responsible for the death of his family. Ticket price includes a drink, dessert reception and valet parking. 8 p.m. Saturday. $36; $32 JCC members. The Carnegie, 1028 Scott Blvd., Covington, Ky., mayersonjcc.org.  http://citybeat.com/cincinnati/article-34554-festival_of_plenty.html 

Alex Stone
Photo: Provided
COMEDY: ALEX STONE
It has been quite a year for Sycamore Township native Alex Stone. After relocating to New York City, where he moved in with fellow Cincinnati comic Sam Evans, Stone released a CD titled Hello. Recorded at Go Bananas, the album perfectly encapsulates Stone’s storytelling style, while still containing plenty of absurdist jokes. Whether it’s talking about visiting home and staying in his old bedroom or telling the tale of how his girlfriend’s friend was hit on by actor John Stamos, Stone finds the funny. This past fall, Stone and roommate Evans started a podcast called F*** You We Like The Bengals, which each week deconstructed (or, more accurately, roasted) that week’s opponent. Thursday-Sunday. $8-$14. Go Bananas, 8410 Market Place Lane, Montgomery, gobananascomedy.com

TV: SNL 
Bernie Sanders doppelgänger Larry David hosts; The 1975 performs. Saturday Night Live 11:30 p.m., NBC.

EVENT: CHRISTIAN MOERLEIN SUPER FIRKIN SATURDAY 
Moerlein hosts its first firkin cask beer festival Saturday to correspond with the big game. There will be innovative and experimental brews with one-time creations from Moerlein and other breweries from across Ohio. A dollar from each pint will be donated to the family of fallen firefighter Patrick Wolterman. 2-6 p.m. Free admission. Christian Moerlein Brewing Co., 1621 Moore St., Over-the-Rhine, christianmoerlein.com.

SUNDAY
TV: THE SUPERBOWL
The Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos in basically the only thing on TV tonight. First-timers Coldplay and Super Bowl vets Beyoncé and Bruno Mars look to one-up Left Shark for the halftime entertainment. Super Bowl 50, 6:30 p.m., CBS.

'The Guilty'
Photo: Ji Hyun Kwon
ART: JI HYUN KWON: THE GUILTY AT IRIS BOOKCAFE
Iris BookCafé has extended its current photography exhibition, Ji Hyun Kwon: The Guilty, through Feb. 12. Ji Hyun Kwon, a young Korean woman, began this series to “reconcile her own sense of guilt and selfishness for being an artist while the rest of the world continues in persistent suffering,” according to curator William Messer. She then went on to explore how those from other ethnic and cultural backgrounds wear their senses of guilt. She asked her subjects to express this guilt in writing and then transferred it to their faces in portraits. The show also separately provides their complete statements. Through Feb. 12. Free. 1331 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, irisbookcafe.com

Krohn Spring Floral Show
Photo: Provided
ATTRACTION: HATCHING SPRING BLOOMS AT KROHN
We might have just gotten our first snows of the season, but Krohn Conservatory is launching headlong into spring with its new floral show, Hatching Spring Blooms. Spring is in the air with fragrant daffodils, hyacinths, hydrangeas and bright green grass laid out in geometric patterns. Overhead, painted pastel branches hang above a canopy of trees, decorated with hundreds of painted eggs. You can even wander a hidden forest path lined with moss and stepping stones. Through March 13. $4 adults; $2 youth. Krohn Conservatory, 1501 Eden Park Drive, Eden Park, 513-421-5707, cincinnatiparks.com



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<![CDATA[Report: Kentucky Official Disputes DeWine Claim on Fetal Tissue]]> Following controversy around videos released by anti-abortion groups purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials in Texas discussing the sale of fetal tissue to a fake medical company, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine launched an investigation of Ohio Planned Parenthood late last year.

That investigation didn't find any fetal tissue sales at the organization's Ohio clinics, but DeWine did announce that it appeared as if Planned Parenthood was violating state law by contracting with a company that autoclaved, or steam-treated, fetal tissue and then dumped it in landfills.

However, in an investigation published yesterday by Columbus WBNS-10TV, Lanny Brannock, spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection, says intact fetuses were not disposed of in landfills there. What's more, Brannock says Ohio investigators never spoke to anyone at the facilities nor visited them during the course of their investigation.

“It is illegal to landfill any human tissue in Kentucky, and by law it’s required to be incinerated," Brannock said. "We have no knowledge of any human tissue going into Kentucky landfills."

The investigation also shows that the state contracts with the same disposal company, Kentucky-based Accu Medical Waste Services, Inc., to dispose of medical waste. That contract includes state prisons, where inmates occasionally suffer miscarriages. 

The state has declined to release records for the specific procedure used to dispose of fetal remains from miscarriages in prisons, but no other company has a contract to dispose of medical waste from those prisons. The state's contract with Accu Medical doesn't mention fetal tissue.

DeWine says investigators didn't look into Ohio's contracts because his office was focused on what Planned Parenthood does.

“I find it to be disturbing and I find it to be not humane," DeWine said. "I don't think it matters who does it.  What matters is this is being done. So I was not aware of that at all. You know when we began our investigation, it was a very narrow question."

The revelation comes after a Texas grand jury on Jan. 26 declined to indict Planned Parenthood officials shown in the original fetal tissue sale videos and instead indicted the video makers, activists with the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress, on felony federal records tampering charges.

“Now I’m very troubled that our attorney general would go to such lengths in what seems to me to be a witch hunt," Ohio State Rep. Nicki Antonio, a Democrat, told the news station. “And this comes on the heels of Planned Parenthood being exonerated, found to be not guilty of anything. ... Clearly there was a plan to discredit Planned Parenthood."

The Ohio legislature has passed a bill that would strip Planned Parenthood of more than $1 million in federal and state funding following DeWine's investigation. That legislation currently awaits House approval of minor changes made in the state Senate. It will then go to Ohio Gov. John Kasich's desk. The move is the latest in continued efforts to chip away at the number of abortion providers in the state, which has dropped from from 26 to 14 to just nine in the last few years because of restrictive new laws and regulations designed to shut down clinics.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Morning all. Here’s what’s up in the news today.

Hamilton County Democratic Party’s executive commission last night voted not to censure Ben Lindy, a candidate to replace Denise Driehaus as state representative. But the party also had strong words about a paper Lindy authored that is currently in being used in a legal attack against teachers’ unions. Controversy erupted last week when party leaders found out that the paper, which Lindy wrote while studying at Yale University, is currently being used by anti-union groups in a pivotal U.S. Supreme Court case that could endanger collective bargaining arrangements for labor groups. Lindy says he supports unions and doesn’t agree with the suit. He’s facing other Democrats, including fellow Hyde Park resident Brigid Kelly, in the party’s primary to run for Ohio's District 31 state representative seat.

• I love going to Findlay Market, but like a lot of people, one of the big challenges I have is that I can’t get quite everything I need there. But that could change soon. Owners of current Findlay vendors Fresh Table are planning a new micro-grocery just across from the historic market. In addition to having a lunch counter, the store will feature hygiene items and other products that will help round out Findlay’s offerings. The store aims to serve people of all incomes and should be open by September, according to owners Meredith Trombly and Louis Snowden.

• A recent study shows that Cincinnati ranks favorably among the country’s biggest 100 cities when it comes to prosperity, but that it lags well behind when it comes to extending that prosperity beyond whites. The city ranked 18th in a Brookings Institution study released last week when it came to prosperity, but 81st in racial economic inclusion. We've checked out that study in-depth here.

• A men’s rights group whose leader has in the past advocated for rape legalization has cancelled plans for rallies around the world, including one near Cincinnati. Return of Kings, which was founded by 36-year-old Roosh Valizadeh, had planned numerous get-togethers for its so-called “tribesmen” this Saturday at 8 p.m. across the United States and as far away as Australia. Valizadeh has authored blog posts on the group’s website calling for women to be stripped of the right to vote and for rape to be legalized on private property. Valizadeh cited safety concerns for the cancellations. Feminist activists in Cincinnati called that “ironic,” saying that ROK represented the only threat to peoples’ safety in the area and that the group perpetuates rape culture.

• In the wake of its second student suicide in as many months, Cincinnati Public Schools is expanding its anti-suicide efforts. The push comes as community leaders highlight a crisis in teen suicide in the region, especially in its black communities. CPS has sent home suicide prevention guidelines and resources for parents. Meanwhile, faith leaders and others in those communities are working on long-term strategies to address that crisis.

• Finally, another night, another presidential primary debate. This time it was Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton who tussled. Their past debates have been markedly civil compared to the Republican primary debates’ circus-like atmosphere, but the gloves have finally come off.

That meant lengthy (and annoying) semantic debates about the words “progressive” and “establishment” that mirror similar ideological pissing contests within the Republican Party. Unencumbered by flagging third candidate former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Sanders and Clinton were able to really go at it. But sandwiched in between the jabs traded back and forth there was some substance to the discussion.

Clinton came out well ahead on foreign policy, her home turf issue — she was U.S. Secretary of State, after all — with Sanders tripping over whether North Korea had one or multiple dictators. Seriously, man? Sanders, however, seemed to gain an upper hand on domestic issues around the economy, which is really the core of his campaign. He was able to land some substantive blows against Clinton when it came to her support from financial industry bigwigs, calling her out for donations and $100,000 speaking fees she’s received from big banks and other financial institutions. Sanders says should be more regulated by government.

Clinton called those questions an “artful smear” of her campaign, though she balked at promising to release transcripts of paid speeches she gave to those financial institutions, saying only that she would “look into it.” I say “I’ll look into it” when there is no chance in the world I’m going to do whatever it is I’m supposed to be looking into, but that’s just me.

And I’m out. Hit me on Twitter or via email.

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<![CDATA["Pro-Rape" Men's Rights Group Cancels Meetups; Cites Safety Concerns]]>

A group of so-called "men's rights" activists led by a blogger who once advocated the legalization of rape has cancelled a word-wide series of meetups, including one near Cincinnati.

Return of Kings founder Roosh Valizadeh, 36, wrote on the group's website that all meetups, which had been scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday across the U.S. and as far away as Australia, would be cancelled due to safety concerns for men who might attend.

"I can no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to attend on February 6, especially since most of the meetups can not be made private in time," a statement on the website says. Cincinnati's meetup was scheduled to take place near I-75 on Sharon Road near a gas station.

The supposed meetups caused anger, and sometimes fear, in many communities, including Cincinnati. Pushback across the country appears to have triggered the cancellations. Local feminist activists here set up strategy meetings for the best way to protest the group, which has published articles with titles such as "Women Should not be Allowed to Vote" and "Make Rape Legal on Private Property."

Roosh says that article was satire, but activists say his group represents a toxic and dangerous movement. Local activist group the Cincinnati Radical Feminist Collective called the cancellation "ironic," since Valizadeh's group threatens the safety of women and members of the LGBT community.

“The Cincinnati Radical Feminist Collective embraces a culture of consent," Cincinnati Radical Feminist Collective member Abby Friend said in a statement today in response to the events' cancellation. "Return of Kings (ROK), the group planning the now-cancelled Saturday pro-rape rally, is a blatant representation of the problems inherent in a culture that casually accepts sexual harassment, sexual assault, homophobia and rape."

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<![CDATA[Study: Cincinnati Ranks High for Prosperity, Low for Racial Economic Inclusion]]>

As the economy continues to rebound from the Great Recession and as interest in urban living continues to build, many cities across the country are seeing a rebound in their fortunes. But who benefits from this resurgence?

A new study from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program released last week seeks to provide some answers to that question in 100 cities around the country by measuring economic activity in each from 2009 to 2014. Cincinnati’s results in that study are simultaneously promising and troubling.

The Queen City ranks squarely in the middle of those 100 cities when it comes to overall economic growth. But there’s more to the picture than just raw economic activity. The Brookings study also considered prosperity: that is, the degree to which increases in economic activity benefit individuals; and inclusion, which is defined by how much that prosperity extends across different groups of people.

Cincinnati ranked well on those two measures — 18th and 19th, respectively. But there are some caveats to those rankings. What’s more, the city ranks near the bottom of the list — 81st — when it comes to racial inclusion in economic prosperity.

What does each category measure? Brookings' prosperity ranking considers productivity, average annual wage and the standard of living in each city. Inclusion measures the median wage, relative poverty — or poverty measured by the percentage of people below 50 percent of the area median wage — and employment rate in each city. The study’s racial inclusion research considered those factors for non-white groups in each city.

It’s worth noting that economic inclusion is actually trending downward in many cities across the country and that a high ranking doesn’t mean cities are necessarily headed in the right direction. Eighty of the 100 cities in the study saw wages fall. Fifty-three saw relative poverty rise. Cincinnati’s relatively high ranking on the inclusion list comes even though median wages here have fallen in the past five years by 1.4 percent and are still below the levels they were at in 1999. There’s good news, too, of course: The number of jobs and standards of living are up and relative poverty here fell from its Great Recession peak in 2009 through 2013. But that number began rising again in 2014.

Thus, overall inclusion in Cincinnati post-recession can be described as a mixed bag at best, though we’re clearing faring better than many other major cities.

That is, except for one very important category. The most troubling numbers for Cincinnati come from the study’s ranking of how economically inclusive cities are by race. Here, the city is at the bottom of the heap, though it should be noted that five other Ohio cities — Cleveland, Columbus, Youngstown, Dayton and Akron — are ranked even lower. That begs a question for another day: Why are Ohio cities so economically segregated? Statewide policy probably plays some role, but there might be other factors at play.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati's ranking is low for a very simple reason: because wages here are going down for blacks and up for whites, while poverty levels in the city do the inverse.

Median yearly wages for non-whites in the city fell from $25,081 to $24,202 between 2009 and 2014, even as wages for whites rose from $32,714 to $35,295. That’s a 3.5 percent drop compared to an 8 percent gain. What’s more, relative poverty among non-whites in Cincinnati rose from 33 percent to 37 percent in that time period, while poverty for whites fell from 27.5 percent to 25.7 percent. Poverty for non-whites in Cincinnati increased by 4 percent and decreased for whites by nearly 2 percentage points.

What that means is that the economic gaps already present in Cincinnati are rising. There have been efforts to address this — new development aimed at low-income residents in neighborhoods like Avondale, for instance, and the city's recently created Department of Economic Inclusion.

Beyond all the numbers, though, the continuing disparity is causing a great deal of  frustration in the community, as this week's Xavier University town hall discussion on race relations in the aftermath of the 2001 civil unrest showed. As Brookings' study shows, the deeper economic issues many panelists and community members highlighted at that forum are real and growing.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Good morning all. Here’s a quick rundown of the news today.

Cincinnati City Council yesterday passed an ordinance that would punish employers who don’t pay their workers, making Cincinnati the first city in the state to do so. We told you about that ordinance earlier this week. The law would allow the city to better enforce federal and state prohibitions against wage theft, revoke tax incentives and other deals and also allow it, in certain cases, to bar a company caught stealing wages from future city contracts. The ordinance has received praise from progressive groups, and city officials say they’ve received requests for copies of the ordinance from other cities like Columbus.

Victims of wage theft, faith leaders, advocates with Cincinnati’s Interfaith Workers Center and even representatives from contracting groups spoke before the vote, encouraging Council to pass the legislation. The decision wasn’t without some controversy, however, as Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn moved to amend the language of the ordinance to stipulate that it apply only to those who are working legally in the U.S.

"Wage theft is wrong," Winburn said, but claimed the proposed legislation would "discourage undocumented workers from going through proper channels."

That brought about a flurry of resistance from other Council members.

"It's not even a question of immigration," Councilman Kevin Flynn, a Charterite, said. Flynn said the ordinance is simply about the city not doing business with companies that steal from employees.

Vice Mayor David Mann, who authored the ordinance, refused to accept the amendment. The law passed 7-2.

• Now that the cat’s out of the bag about a potential $680 million in under-scrutinized spending by Cincinnati’s Metropolitan Sewer District over a nearly 10-year period, officials with both the city and the county are scrambling to place blame. Both Hamilton County Commissioners and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley have called for extensive auditing of the MSD. The sewer district is run by the city but owned by the county, and both say the other is to blame after revelations that a big chunk of a federal court-ordered $3 billion sewer upgrade has been done without competitive bidding for contracts and with little oversight outside the department. Cranley has said that the misspending has taken place “right under the noses” of county commissioners, while commissioners claim they’ve been trying to get better control of the sewer district’s spending for years. Cranley also pointed to former City Manager Milton Dohoney, who gave former MSD Director Tony Parrot a huge degree of latitude in purchasing decisions in 2007.

• The Hamilton County Board of Elections voted yesterday to move its headquarters from downtown Cincinnati to a location in Norwood. The county’s lease on its current headquarters on Broadway is set to expire this year, and BOE officials say the new location is more central to the entire county. However, many have decried the move, including Mayor Cranley. Having the BOE headquarters, where early voting takes place, close to the county’s transit hub is vital for low-income voters, Cranley says. If the headquarters moves to Norwood, another early voting location should be setup near Government Square, Metro’s downtown hub, the mayor says. Two bus routes serve the proposed location in Norwood, though BOE board members point out the location has a lot of free parking. Hamilton County GOP Chair Alex Triantafilou, who sits on the BOE’s board, pointed to the unanimous decision by the four-member, bipartisan BOE board and said Cranley should “mind his own business” in response to the mayor’s criticism. This isn’t the first time a proposed move by the BOE has caused controversy. In 2014, it looked to move its headquarters to Mount Airy, though that plan was later scrapped.

• Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has coordinated closely with conservative right-to-life activists as he targets Planned Parenthood, a new investigation shows. DeWine exchanged congratulatory text messages and emails with the president of Ohio Right to Life. The group has also offered to share talking points and press materials with the AG and advisors to Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Officials with the organization say it’s not unusual for high-level state officials to be in touch with lobbyists and activists. “I’m not going to apologize for who my friends are,” pro-life lobbyist Mike Gonidakis told the Associated Press. But progressive groups and some government watchdogs have cried foul, saying the relationship between the AG and pro-life group is far too cozy.

• Here’s an interesting look by the Associated Press at the business costs of an anti-gay-rights backlash currently going on in Indiana’s state government. Generally conservative chamber of commerce members and state lawmakers there have become increasingly nervous about the state’s business prospects as the state fails to pass legislation banning discrimination against the LGBT community. The perception that Indiana is a place hostile to gays could hurt the resurgence of cities like Indianapolis, business leaders fear.

• Finally, thousands of Uber drivers plan to protest fare cuts by the company by disrupting Sunday’s Super Bowl in San Francisco. As many as 9,000 drivers are expected to congest the streets around Levi’s Stadium there as they decry changes to Uber’s policy that drivers say have left many of them making less than minimum wage. Smaller protests have already popped up in San Francisco and New York City, where on Feb. 1 coordinated demonstrations drew about 1,000 drivers each.

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<![CDATA[Slice of Cincinnati: Cincinnati Art Museum's Conservation Department]]>

It’s the 15th century, and remnants of the Middle Ages hang over Europe as it unknowingly waits for the Renaissance. In the dim candlelight somewhere in Spain shines an altarpiece painted to depict the lives of St. Peter and Jesus Christ along with images of the Virgin Mary and other saints. With its impressive strokes of paint and gold and silver leaf, Lorenzo Zaragoza’s “Retablo of St. Peter” is remarkable to behold.

More than 600 years later, the altarpiece rests under the skilled hands of Cincinnati Art Museum’s chief conservator Serena Urry. With only the clack of museum visitor’s shoes disturbing the quiet peace, the setting resembles the serenity of the piece’s original home.

Zaragoza’s piece has stood the test of time, more or less. While it has been admired by thousands of Cincinnati Art Museum visitors since the museum purchased the piece in1960, it was taken off exhibit in 2010 due to its poor condition. It is now back on exhibit through April 24, as visitors can watch Urry bring the retablo to life again through cleaning all 18 of its panels.

It’s a two-in-one exhibit, giving visitors an insider’s look at the work done by the museum’s conservation department while they view and learn about the piece. Established in 1935, the museum’s conservation department is one of the oldest in the country. Since then it has grown from one part-time paintings conservator to four professionally trained conservators, each of whom have their own specialization in paintings, paper, textiles or objects. The department is in charge of conserving the museum’s entire collection (with the exception of works that are on loan to the museum).

Urry proposed the exhibit because the retablo needed to be treated before it could go back on view in the galleries. However, this is no small task — the retouching is not expected to be complete for another few years. On view in the exhibit is only the first step of the process: cleaning and consolidating.

“Museums usually put conservation on view to the public when the work of art is simply too big to remove it from the gallery or garden,” Urry says. Before the retablo was taken off exhibit, it was the only piece in the room it occupied.
Conserving a work of art like the retablo first involves examining them closely under infrared and ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet light reveals differences on the painting’s surface that are not visible to the naked eye; infrared light reveals what is underneath the paint on the ground layer.

Urry says determining the full condition of a piece of art before beginning its conservation treatment is the hardest part of conserving art. The two most important tenants that guide painting conservation are reversibility, which ensures that nothing will be done to the work that cannot be removed later, and dissimilarity, which means suing conservation materials that are not found in the original painting.

Of course, Uri’s conservation efforts are not the first for the retablo. With a piece of art this old, it is common for there to be many years of retouching — the first effort to conserve the retablo may have occurred around the early 1500s. It is believed that the central sculpture of St. Peter was created to replace the original lost piece.

Urry’s work includes using a variety of solvents, hand tools and a hot air gun to remove the effects of older retouching campaigns, such as discolored varnish and wax. This includes a layer of wax added by the Art Museum in 1960 to contain flaking. Since then it has become clouded with dust and grime, and the wax tinted to match the gold leaf of the painting has discolored to a greenish metallic hue.

After cleaning, painting conservation also involves structural treatments, such as modifying or replacing the canvas, its lining and stretcher. There may also be surface treatments done to conserve paintings, such as filling losses of paint, toning the fillings and adding layers of varnish.

“All of the paintings in a multi-piece work like this should be worked on together to ensure consistency,” Urry says. “The gallery space gives me an opportunity to have all of them on view as they are conserved.”

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Hey hey Cincy! How are you all on this fine spring morning? Wait, it’s early February? Guess I better change out of these jean shorts and put the slip-n-slide away. Bummer. Be right back.

OK, where were we now? News. Right. Let’s get to it.

Last night Xavier University held a packed town hall discussion on the state of Cincinnati 15 years after the police shooting of unarmed black citizen Timothy Thomas and the civil unrest that shook the city afterward. Here’s my story about that ahead of a more in-depth dive later. I also live tweeted last night’s event and you can find quotes from panelists on my feed.

• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld has proposed a new measure aimed at increasing pedestrian and bicyclist safety, according to a news release sent out this morning. Sittenfeld’s proposed motion, which would ask the city to identify the area’s most dangerous intersections for non-car-drivers and present options aimed at mitigating the dangers there. Sittenfeld says his motion, which comes in the wake of a hit-and-run accident that killed a popular Cincinnati cyclist in Anderson last week, has support of the rest of Council. As a cyclist and a walking commuter, I very much hope the city follows through on this.

• A visit by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in East Price Hill has some members of the immigrant community and their advocates on edge. Agents with ICE showed up yesterday morning at an apartment complex that houses a few Central American immigrant families, and now some in the community fear the visit is the precursor to a larger raid by the agency tasked with enforcing America’s immigration laws. Late last year, the Obama administration announced it would begin more strictly enforcing those laws and deporting undocumented families who arrived after 2014. Several states have already seen raids from the agency.

• Cincinnati’s Metropolitan Sewer District spent hundreds of millions of dollars over nearly a decade without necessary city oversight, city documents and officials say, much of it through contracts to third parties for work it didn’t put up for competitive bids. The spending has its roots in a policy shift started in 2007 that gives large amounts of control to MSD director without proper oversight from city officials outside the department, according to this Cincinnati Enquirer story. City Manager Harry Black has vowed to change the way the department operates so that spending is more transparent and accountable.

• Welp, we’ve talked a lot about how Ohio Gov. John Kasich has his hopes pinned on New Hampshire as he chases the GOP presidential nomination. But then Iowa happened. Specifically, Republican young gun U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio didn’t do that terribly in the state’s caucus, the first contest in the country where primary voters pick their favorites for their party’s nominee. Rubio finished third behind surprise winner U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and real estate hustler Donald Trump.

Consensus among political pundits is that Cruz and Trump are unelectable, but that Rubio could consolidate support from establishment GOP power players, putting him in position to surge ahead in polls. That’s got political talking heads going all crazy like this (only replace “Ru-fi-o!” with “Ru-bi-o!”), which could make their punditry a self-fulfilling prophecy in places like… you guessed it… New Hampshire. Kasich has been doing markedly better in that state, which he has identified as his make-or-break stand. He’s scooped up the vast majority of newspaper endorsements there and is polling a strong third behind Trump and Cruz. But that could change if Rubio-mania continues. So will Kasich go on the offensive against the Florida senator, who has some pretty big weak spots in terms of his congressional attendance record, his personal finances and other issues? We’ll see. Primaries in New Hampshire are Feb. 9.

• Here’s a brief, but important presidential election update: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky suspended his presidential campaign this morning so he can focus on his Senate re-election bid. Once though to be a big contender this election, Paul’s less interventionist foreign policy ideas and criminal justice reform domestic policy ideas have failed to gain traction in a GOP primary race full of war-loving ideologues convinced a wave of illegal immigrants is coming to rob us blind. Go figure.

• Finally, we’ve seen a lot of journalism about how much the various presidential campaigns are raising in contributions, which PACs and Super PACs are spending millions on those candidates, and the like. But under-covered until now has been the little-known but completely vital pizza primary. How much has your choice for president spent on pizza? Spoiler alert: Ohio’s big queso Kasich hasn’t spent much dough on the cheesy stuff.

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