CityBeat Blogs - News http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-34.html <![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Good morning all. Here’s what’s going on in the world today.

The city of Cincinnati has officially announced an opening date for the city’s streetcar. The transit project running through Over-the-Rhine and downtown will take its first passengers Sept. 9, beginning with an opening ceremony at some point mid-day. The project, which has been fraught with political battles and funding concerns, is being financed with increased parking revenues, advertising proceeds and other sources that aren’t part of the city’s general fund budget.

• Mayor John Cranley yesterday rolled out more of his proposals for the city’s budget, which involve some $30 million for neighborhood projects. He spoke at a news conference in Avondale about projects he’d like to see funded in that neighborhood under his proposed fiscal plan, including a renewed Avondale Towne Center with a Save-A-Lot grocery store. Avondale has been trying to get a full-service grocery store since Aldi left the neighborhood about eight years ago. The city would chip in about $2 million to get development started under Cranley’s plan. The mayor did acknowledge that neighborhood activists had hoped for a higher-scale store such as a Kroger but that the Save-A-Lot will be expected to stock fresh produce and other necessities. Cranley yesterday also announced he would provide $3.2 million for a new community development corporation in Bond Hill and Roselawn.

• Cranley is set to pitch another round of investments today in the city’s East Side neighborhoods. He’s also expected to announce that the city will purchase the land necessary to build the Wasson Way bike trail. That $11.8 million, 4.1-mile stretch of former railway is vital to the completion of the trail, which would pass through a number of East Side neighborhoods on its way to Uptown. If the city doesn’t purchase the land by the end of July, the price will jump by nearly $600,000. It’s unclear where the construction money for the project will come from. The city applied for a federal TIGER grant last year to help fund building costs for the bike trail but was turned down.

• Wait. Hold on. Do I agree on something with U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, the tea party crusader from Northern Kentucky? It would… kind of appear so. Massie owes the GOP $24,000 in “party dues,” i.e. money from his fundraising coffers the party expects in order to stay in its good graces. Massie has criticized the practice, which is also used to determine who gets which committee assignment in the House. Particular assignments have particular dollar amounts assigned to them, and the more influential the committee, the more money a House member is expected to kick in. Massie is slamming this system, saying it means the best fundraisers, not the best lawmakers, get oversized influence in the legislative process. In what may be the only example of partisan agreement between a tea party member and the rest of Congress, some Democrats agree with him. I also think it sounds pretty messed up.

• What policies will law enforcement officers and departments have to follow regarding body cameras across Ohio? We’ll have to wait until November to find out. State lawmakers have put off voting on legislation to set those policies until then, in part because of disagreements between some lawmakers and organizations representing law enforcement agencies. Legislators like State Rep. Alicia Reece say they want mandatory body cameras for all police across the state and a uniform body camera policy to cover every law enforcement agency in Ohio. Those ideas didn’t garner enough votes, but legislation requiring some form of body camera policy for agencies was on the table. But Ohio’s Fraternal Order of Police has its own demand: the right for officers to review camera footage before they file reports. That’s sent the bill back to the drawing board, and with today the last day of the legislative term, it’ll be months until it’s taken back up.

• A federal judge has ruled that Ohio state officials must restore the so-called “Golden Week” before elections for early voting. Republican lawmakers have reduced early voting times in the state over the past few years, causing consternation from voting rights advocates. Among those advocating for the reduction were Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who said that the extra hours were irregular from place to place and weren’t fair to all voters. However, those extra hours drew predominantly urban, mostly black voters who often vote Democratic, leading to charges that the move violated civil rights laws and the Constitution. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson agreed, striking down the elimination of the extra hours and restoring Ohio’s early voting provisions to a full 35 days leading up to the election. After reductions, the state was down to 28 early voting days, which Republicans point out is still more than many other states.

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he still can’t back GOP presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, citing the real estate mogul’s “scapegoating, negativity and willingness to run people into the ditch.” Kasich, who until less than a month ago was fighting Trump for a shot at the GOP nomination, says there would need to be a fundamental shift in the way Trump campaigns before he would throw his weight behind him. Kasich made the remarks, among his first since he dropped out of the race earlier this month, during an interview with the Columbus Dispatch and the Cleveland Plain Dealer at his office in Columbus. Kasich says he doesn’t regret his scuttled bid for president and that he’s planning on writing a book about the experience.

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

Good morning all. Lots to talk about today so let’s get to it!

The 13 children of Samuel DuBose will each receive more than $200,000 as part of a settlement between the family and the University of Cincinnati, a Hamilton County judge ruled yesterday. DuBose was shot and killed by UC police officer Ray Tensing July 19 last year. In addition to the money for his children, DuBose’s mother Audrey DuBose will receive $90,000, his six siblings will receive $32,000 each and his father Sam Johnson will receive $25,000, Judge Ralph Winlker announced yesterday. The settlement, which also includes other elements such as college tuition for DuBose’s children, resolves a civil suit against the university. Criminal proceedings are ongoing against former officer Tensing, who is charged with murder and manslaughter. He’s scheduled to stand trial on those charges in October.

• Cincinnati City Council members are requesting the recently completed audit of the region’s Metropolitan Sewer District ahead of the city's budget process, but City Manager Harry Black says they shouldn't rush. The audit, which resulted from revelations that MSD spent millions on contracts it didn’t properly put through a bidding process, is still with the city’s lawyers in a working draft form, Black says. But with work on the city’s budget looming, council members like Kevin Flynn and Chris Seelbach say the time is now to reveal the results of the audit. Things got testy when Council pushed for more information from the audit at yesterday’s budget and finance committee meeting, with Black resisting requests for that information and Seelbach accusing the city manager of giving him an eye roll. Oh snap.

• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is at the White House today meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and state and local government officials as part of a discussion on gun violence. Sittenfeld made gun control a big part of his campaign when he was running for Senate against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland. Sittenfeld lost that race but has pledged to continue efforts to curtail shootings. He told WVXU he is there to learn more about strategies for curbing gun violence and that he doesn’t think the invite has anything to do with his former Senate campaign. President Barack Obama and VP Biden endorsed Strickland in that race.

This is a weird article. Breaking news: The city has a lot of stairs. Some of them are crumbling. More breaking news: The city isn’t exactly rushing to pay to fix them. Thus concludes your breaking news update about something you probably already knew about. The steps are a big part of the city’s walking infrastructure (I take them every day). But they’ve been neglected since, well, probably since people started moving out of the city. The money it would take to fix them is also an infinitesimally small portion of the city’s budget at a time when Mayor John Cranley is discussing throwing $30 million to a few city neighborhoods.

• A federal judge has temporarily blocked an Ohio law that would strip $1.4 million in public money from Planned Parenthood in the state. That money goes to providing health screenings for low-income women, not to providing abortions. The temporary restraining order keeping Ohio from enforcing the law, which passed in February, comes as a larger court fight around the measure continues. You can read more about all of that in our story here.

• Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost yesterday announced the results of surprise headcounts at Ohio charter schools, saying at least some of the schools had very few or no students attending on the days of the unannounced visits. Yost said the extremely low attendance numbers at three charters in the state suggests they might be operating illegally as distance learning schools instead of the brick and mortar schools they’re certified to operate as. It’s the latest revelation in a bad stretch for the state’s charters, which have faced allegations of mismanagement and an Ohio Department of Education data rigging scandal that artificially inflated charter school performance by omitting some low-performing online schools. Yost visited 14 drop-out recovery schools around the state and found an average attendance of just 34 percent.

• The revelations, as well as other frustrations with the state’s public schools, had the auditor spitting hot fire at the ODE yesterday, calling it “among the worst, if not the worst-run agency in state government.” Yost cited poor charter school accountability and performance as well as a slow roll out for ODE’s new data management system as among the sources for his frustration with the agency.

• Finally, more presidential politics, because I know you need more of that in your life. Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump in Ohio, according to the latest polls asking voters about the upcoming general election. But it’s not the blowout you might expect. Clinton’s up 44 percent to Trump’s 39 percent in the Buckeye State — less than her primary opponent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who bests Trump 48 percent to 39 percent in the CBS/YouGov poll. Voters have a pretty negative opinion of both candidates, however — 55 percent view Clinton negatively and 59 percent feel the same about Trump.

That’s it for me. See you tomorrow. Tweet or email in the meantime.

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<![CDATA[Federal Court Blocks Ohio Law Defunding Planned Parenthood]]> A federal circuit court today temporarily blocked an Ohio law that would strip Planned Parenthood of about $1.4 million in state and federal funds.

That law was slated to go into effect today, but will now be placed on hold until June 6 as the court considers a longer-lasting injunction against the defunding move by conservative state lawmakers. 

The money the state seeks to withhold is used by Planned Parenthood to provide non-abortion healthcare services, including HIV and cancer screenings. 

Judge Michael R. Barrett of the U.S. Southwest District Court ruled that the organization’s challenge to the law has a significant chance of success in federal courts, and thus placed a temporary restraining order on the state, preventing it from enforcing the law for the time being.

Barrett agreed with Planned Parenthood’s arguments that the law blocking the money could severely damage medical-screening activities the organization undertakes, and that those operations could be hard to reestablish.

“Plaintiffs explain that without the funds at issue here, Plaintiffs will be forced to stop providing services such as pap smears and other cancer screenings, tests for HIV/AIDS and tests and treatment for other STDs, infant mortality prevention programs, and sexual health education programs,” Barrett wrote in his ruling today. “Therefore, the Court concludes that for purposes of deciding Plaintiffs’ Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Plaintiffs have established irreparable injury.”

In seeking the injunction, Planned Parenthood argues that the law violates the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment by targeting the organization due to the fact it provides abortions.

State lawmakers have been open in acknowledging that they seek to strip funds from Planned Parenthood because the organization provides abortions, even though the public money given to the organization goes to other health services.

Conservatives in the state house have said they’re opposed to abortion for moral and safety reasons, and have described their crackdown on abortion providers like Planned Parenthood as a way to protect women.

“We have an obligation to say to Planned Parenthood, until you get out of the business of termination of pregnancy, the destruction of human life, we are not going to choose to fund you,” Ohio Sen. Peggy Lehner, a Republican who helped push the law, said during debate over the defunding provision in January.

But Planned Parenthood claims these clinics aren't immediately in a position to fill the healthcare gaps it would leave, which would include 70,000 free STD screenings it provides through a Centers for Disease Control program and 5,000 free HIV tests for populations at high risk for the virus.

Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio serves 20 counties in the region. It says about 75 percent of its clients are low-income.
 
The defunding effort is the latest in a recent string of laws passed by Ohio Republicans seeking to limit abortions. The state has passed ever-stricter standards, including stipulations about admitting privileges at local hospitals and rules against publicly funded hospitals entering into such agreements with abortion clinics. That’s whittled down the number of clinics in the state from 14 a few years ago to just nine today. Among them is the last clinic in the Cincinnati area, the Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn, which has been threatened with closure over the new laws.

Planned Parenthood officials cheered the federal court’s decision today.

“This ruling is a victory for the tens of thousands of Ohioans that rely on Planned Parenthood for care each year,” said Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio CEO Jerry Lawson. “Our state legislators want to ban abortion across the board, and they were willing to decimate access to preventive care in the process. But this isn’t about politics for our patients, it’s about their health and their lives. If you have a lump in your breast or need an HIV test, lawmakers should be making it easier, not harder, to get the care you need.”

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

Hey hey Cincinnati. Hope you got outside and soaked up the perfect weather this weekend. Now it’s back to the real world, where news happens.

The directors of every city of Cincinnati department received raises this past year, according to city records reported by The Cincinnati Enquirer. In total, those raises are costing city taxpayers $234,000 more a year. Some of the city’s 25 department heads got those pay bumps despite making few of their stated goals and receiving rather mixed performance reviews. Top salary getters include Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac, whose $162,000 paycheck is 20 percent more than his predecessor Chief Jeffrey Blackwell made. Fire Chief Richard Braun, who is now also making $162,000, saw his pay raised 16 percent. Those raises came during a time when the city projected as much as a $14 million budget deficit. That deficit was cut in half by more recent economic projections, but could still trigger cuts to the city’s human services and economic development efforts, among other services. The city manager’s recently released budget calls for a 1 percent raise for all city employees, and police and fire personnel are negotiating to get a 3 percent bump.

• Speaking of the budget, Mayor John Cranley is set to unveil his ideas for the city’s financial plan today at 11 a.m. at Westwood Town Hall, according to a news release from the mayor's office. On the agenda: $30 million for neighborhood projects in that neighborhood and in places like West Price Hill, North Avondale, Bond Hill and others. City Manager Black released his budget proposal Thursday, and Cranley has two weeks to submit his version to City Council. He’ll be presenting his version of the budget at town halls throughout the week.

• We haven’t even survived 2016 yet, but we’re already talking about the election after it. Last week, we told you about the increasing focus around Cincinnati’s 2017 mayoral and City Council races. Now, after revelations that Councilwoman Yvette Simpson sent out a memo to potential firms that could help her in a bid opposing fellow Dem Cranley, Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke is asking party members to focus on this year’s election. Burke has said it’s too early to focus on next year just yet when there are big races at the county level — most notably a pitched fight for control of the Hamilton County Commission. State Rep. Denise Driehaus is running to grab a seat on that body, and if she pulls out a victory against Republican interim commissioner Dennis Deters, the three-member group that oversees the county could have a Democrat majority for the first time in years. But the call for unity from Burke comes as the party is experiencing tension between two factions in the city: younger, more progressive Dems who tended to support the streetcar and who push for items like increases in human services funding, and more established, moderate Democrats like Mayor Cranley.

• That battle continues to shape up: progressive 2013 City Council candidate Michelle Dillingham is launching her bid for a Council seat in the 2017 election tonight at Bromwell’s Harth-Lounge at 6 p.m. Dillingham came in 12th in that race and hopes to turn support for her from progressives into a Council seat this time around.

• A historic building in Covington will get at least a little more time safe from the wrecking ball. Kenton County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Summe told Bavarian Brewery owners Columbia Sussex that they can’t demolish the 100-year-old building. The structure, which sits in a historic district, once held Jillian’s nightclub. Columbia-Sussex originally wanted to put a casino on the property, but Kentucky legislators have yet to pass a law that would allow that to happen. Now, the company says the only way it can see a return on investment is by demolishing the building. Covington’s Urban Design Review Board previously denied a permit application for that demolition, and Judge Summe’s ruling affirms that position. Columbia-Sussex can appeal her decision, however.

• Finally, University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono made big news over the weekend with his admission that he suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts as a younger man. Ono made the revelation at a fundraiser Saturday for mental health-awareness group 1N5, whose name is a reference to research that shows one in five individuals in the United States suffers from mental illness. Ono said that by talking about his past struggles, he hoped to show that mental illness is treatable and nothing to be ashamed of.

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

Good morning y’all! Here are your morning headlines.

• Councilwoman Yvette Simpson might have released the first shred of evidence that she’s running for mayor next year. Simpson sent a letter to consulting firms this month searching for someone who could help with a “campaign against an incumbent executive office holder,” aka Mayor John Cranley. Simpson won’t officially say yet whether she’s going to take a shot at Cranley’s spot or just run for a third term on Council in 2017 but says she’ll make a decision by the end of this year.

• It’s that super exciting time of year when the city lays out its budget for next year. Yesterday, City Manager Harry Black presented his plan for a $1.2 billion city budget that includes raises for city employees, cuts to the human service department and the city’s economic development programs and building a new marina. Yep, the city wants the Parks Department to build a marina along the Ohio River. Mayor Cranley has two weeks to present the budget to Council, which will then approve or amend it some time before the next fiscal year begins on July 1.

• The University of Cincinnati Department of Public Safety says it is down to three candidates to lead the department. The candidates were chosen by an outside consulting firm and include the director of public safety at Oregon State University, a previous CPD officer with more than 20 years experience and police deputy chief at Ohio State. The department is also down to two candidates for assistant chief, including a CPD Department Captain. UC will present the candidates to the public during open forums will be held May 23-25. Former Police Chief Jason Goodrich and Assistant Chief Tim Thornton resigned in February in the wake of the shooting of Mount Auburn resident Samuel DuBose by former UC police officer Ray Tensing.

• Judge Tracie Hunter will not be going to jail today. The suspended juvenile court judge was supposed to start her 60-day jail sentence today, but a judge suspended her sentence after Hunter filed a petition claiming misconduct by the special prosecutor and judge during her trial. Federal Judge Timothy Black ruled Hunter can remain free during the proceedings. A jury convicted Hunter of unlawful interest in a public contract for helping her brother in a discipline hearing 19 months ago.

• Could U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown become Vice President Brown? Yesterday, Sen. Brown was seen parading around with current VP Joe Biden in Columbus, leading to rumors that the progressive senator could be Hillary Clinton’s pick for running mate. Nothing is certain yet, as Biden told White House reporters that Brown would be a “great pick” but then went on to highlight other strong Democratic contenders without hinting at a favorite.

• Oklahoma’s Republican-dominated legislature passed a bill yesterday that would subject doctors to felony charges and revoke their medical licenses for performing abortions. The bill — which is most restrictive abortion bill passed yet — is still waiting on a signature from Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. If signed in to law, it will almost certainly be challenged in state or federal court where legal experts say it will likely be declared unconstitutional.

News tips go here.

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<![CDATA[It's City Budget Season Again!]]> Are you ready for city budget season? It started today.

City Manager Harry Black this morning presented his vision for Cincinnati’s fiscal year 2017 spending blueprint; a $1.2 billion budget he touts as structurally balanced. On deck: a literal deck, as in, a marina along the Ohio River built by the Cincinnati Parks Department, raises for city employees — three percent for police and fire, plus a boost for low-paid workers through a municipal living wage initiative — and cuts to some agencies to make up for a projected $6.7 million revenue shortfall, priming another potential battle over the city’s human services funding.

Last year, Council battled for, and received, $3 million for human services to be spent through a United Way-run funding process, which vets social service organizations based on effectiveness. This year, that amount will drop to $2,781,000.

That nine percent drop once again falls short of a City Council commitment set last decade pledging to commit at least 1.5 percent of the city’s operating budget to human services.

Other organizations now, but not previously, categorized in the human services section of the budget will also take hits. Mayor John Cranley’s Hand Up Initiative, which runs through Cincinnati Works, will receive $225,000 — $25,000 less than last year. Some programs previously funded by the city, like Cradle Cincinnati, which seeks to address the city’s high infant mortality rate, will receive no money at all. Last year, Cradle got $250,000 from the city’s human services fund.

Not everyone will lose when it comes to human services funding, however. The Center for Closing the Health Gap, run by close Cranley ally and former mayor Dwight Tillery, will see its city funding boosted to $1 million, a $250,000 increase over last year. The organization has received increases in past budgets under Cranley as well.

The city’s economic development programs will also see big cuts. Nearly every program funded by that portion of the budget will take hits, totaling about $285,000. Only MORTAR, a program seeking to boost minority entrepreneurship, will see a slight budget boost.

The funding cuts could have been worse: originally, the city was projected to have as much as a $14 million deficit. But revised projections by University of Cincinnati economists showed the revenue gap will be about half that size. Income tax revenues to the city are expected to grow by 4.6 percent, according to a report on the budget issued by City Manager Black.

But the need for cuts elsewhere won’t stop the city from investing in a marina along Smale Riverfront Park. The park board today voted to go forward with the project, which has been in the works for nearly two decades, and Black’s budget calls for $750,000 of city money to go toward the estimated $3.6 million cost of the project. That money is part of $4 million in Black's budget for parks capital projects. Other money could come from past federal funds for Smale, as well as an application for a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The board says the project, which as proposed would have room for 29 boats, will generate revenue for the parks department.

More on the budget as the process unfolds; this party is just getting started. Mayor Cranley has two weeks to present the budget to Council, which will then vote to approve or amend it. The process should wrap up sometime before July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

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<![CDATA[Will Sen. Sherrod Brown be Clinton's VP Pick?]]> You might have missed it, but U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from the Cleveland area, was traveling around with Vice President Joe Biden yesterday in Columbus.

It’s easy to see the two palling around as a hint that Brown, whose name has been tossed around as a running mate for Democratic presidential primary frontrunner Hillary Clinton, might be next in line for Biden’s job.

But is Brown actually a contender in the veepstakes?

So far, the gruff-voiced progressive senator has demurred on that suggestion, trying to shift the spotlight to other potential VP picks.

“I think Secretary Perez and Tim Kaine would be good vice presidents,” Brown told media yesterday. Tom Perez is Obama’s labor secretary, and Kaine is a U.S. senator from Virginia.

Biden and Brown were visiting the Buckeye State to tout President Barack Obama’s move to extend overtime pay to more U.S. workers, and to do some politicking around the 2016 election. Ohio is a vital swing state for 2016 presidential contenders, a fact that Biden acknowledged was a factor in the trip. More specifically, the two did a bit of campaigning for former Democratic Ohio governor Ted Strickland, who is campaigning to take Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s seat in November.

Ohio’s Senate situation could provide a good reason Brown wouldn’t get the VP nod from Clinton. As Brown himself has pointed out, he would have to leave his Senate seat before 2018, when he’s up for reelection. Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich would then get to pick his replacement. That’s a seat Democrats can’t afford to lose as they wrestle to regain control of Congress.

But don’t count Brown out just yet.

Biden yesterday told White House reporters that Brown “would be a great pick” as Clinton’s running mate. But he also highlighted the strong pool of candidates Democrats have available and didn’t offer an endorsements.

Among other possible picks are Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and progressive firebrand Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who some say Clinton could choose to try and build a bridge with supporters of her primary rival, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Good morning all. Let’s talk about that news stuff.

Cincinnati’s population increased slightly again last year, though not as much as the surrounding suburbs. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the Queen City’s population grew to 298,550 people from the 298,041 who lived here in 2014. That’s a .17 percent bump — smaller than the metropolitan area’s growth rate of .4 percent. But hey, at least we’re not losing people like we were just a decade ago, and like cities such as Cleveland, St. Louis and Pittsburgh still are. Other cities in our region outperformed us in population growth, however, including Columbus, Indianapolis and Louisville, which each added a couple thousand people. So, Cincy’s doing OK when it comes to rebounding from decades of population loss, but could be doing better. Personally, I’d like to see us get above 300,000 again, so please, invite 1,450 of your closest friends to move here. Just as long as they’re not jerks.

• Did you know that your sewer bills have helped pay the salaries of the Cincinnati Park Board? It’s true, apparently. Due to some joint cooperation between the city’s Metropolitan Sewer District and the parks, money from MSD goes to personnel like Parks Director Willie Carden. That money exchange started when parks began helping MSD with some green infrastructure projects, but now some county officials are questioning whether the funding should go so far as to pay administrative salaries. Both MSD and parks have been mired in recent oversight issues around spending, so this revelation will probably anger some folks. You can read more about the situation here.

• Soon, you’ll be able to hop on Metro buses and the streetcar using a mobile app to pay your fare. Officials with the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority Tuesday announced an agreement with Passport, which makes payment apps. The contract between the two means that riders will be able to pay via a Passport app and show Metro and streetcar drivers their tickets on their phone. That will eliminate the need to carry cash for many customers, SORTA officials say. The app will also let riders track their bus as it makes its way to the bus stop, which is pretty cool.

• Hamilton County Democrats have tapped a big-name political consultant to help turn the county blue in the 2016 election. Candidates for county-wide office have pooled campaign funds to hire Ernie Davis, a longtime political consultant for the party. Davis will help strategize ways to convince voters to elect down-ballot candidates come November, including Hamilton County Commission candidate Denise Driehaus, Aftab Pureval for clerk of courts and others. Driehaus is in a highly competitive race with Dennis Deters for the Commission seat, which Deters currently holds after the surprise departure of former commissioner Greg Hartmann. Pureval faces a tougher challenge against current Clerk of Courts Tracy Winkler, a well-established Republican.

• You might have guessed that outspoken immigration critic Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones has something to say about Cincinnati City Council’s recent move to recognize alternate IDs for those without state-issued identification, including undocumented immigrants. You’d be right. Like any reputable, professional public servant, Jones weighed in on the issue in a tweet asking Butler County officials not to recognize cards provided by the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati.

“I am asking butler county not 2 except Cincinnati mark cards for illegals,” Jones tweeted recently. He later clarified that he meant “MARCC ID cards,” though he has yet to confirm that he meant to use the word “accept” instead of “except.”

• Northern Kentucky University will cut more than 100 jobs in response to budget cuts to higher education from recently elected Governor Matt Bevin. NKU will eliminate 37 faculty positions and 68 staff and administrative positions as part of the attempt to make do with less money from the state. The move will save the school about $8 million. Funding for higher education in Kentucky has been sliding for most of the decade, officials with the school say, forcing tough situations for all the state’s public universities. The funding crunch has gotten worse in the state’s most recent budget, however, as Bevin looks to drastically cut state spending.

• Health officials in Ohio are scrambling to find replacement clinics that can administer services like HIV and cancer screenings ahead of a state move to cut federal and state funding for such services from Planned Parenthood. Many health officials say it’s challenging to find other clinics that can step into the void left by the controversial health organization, which state lawmakers say shouldn’t receive public money because it provides abortions. The $1 million conservatives are withholding from Planned Parenthood didn’t go to providing that service, but instead went to other health services. Lawmakers say the money will be rerouted to other clinics that don’t provide abortions, but critics say there aren’t enough clinics with the capacity to take over for Planned Parenthood.

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

Hey all. It's news time.

Let’s start out with some good news today, shall we? Yesterday, MadTree Brewering Co. hosted a ground-breaking celebration for their new Oakley brewing facility, MadTree 2.0. That facility in a former manufacturing site in Oakley will have 50,000 square feet of production space and another 10,000 square feet for a beer garden. The move is a sign of the brewery’s growth: The new site will allow MadTree to quadruple its production and the beer garden is twice the size of its current taproom.

• The controversial Dennison Hotel might soon be designated an “endangered” historic site by a statewide preservation nonprofit. Columbus-based Preservation Ohio is set to announce its list of endangered buildings across the state today. Local preservationists have nominated the Dennison, constructed downtown in 1892 by the firm of noted architect Samuel Hannaford. That designation won’t necessarily provide more legal protection for the building, which could soon face demolition by owners the Joseph family pending a May 26 Historic Conservation Board vote. But appearing on the list can draw more attention and support for historic structures, preservationists say.

• As we’ve talked about here and elsewhere in CityBeat a lot, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is still walking off a loss in the Democratic Party’s Ohio primary against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland for the chance to challenge U.S. Sen. Rob Portman for his Senate seat. So what’s a young man who just lost a Senate race to do? Sittenfeld is weighing his professional options, it seems. He told WCPO recently that he has yet to decide whether to seek a third term on Cincinnati City Council. Sittenfeld, just 31, was the top vote-getter in his first run for the office. If he doesn’t do that, he might jump into a startup venture and wait until he’s a bit more seasoned to continue his career in politics. In the meantime, he’s going full-tilt on Council, and has some solid summer plans: getting married.  

• The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is one of my favorite places, like, ever, which makes this story all the more heartbreaking. Overdoses at the main branch of the library downtown have increased significantly as the heroin crisis continues to grip our region. The main branch is on pace to see 18 overdoses this year — as many as the last two years combined. Solutions to the problem might be difficult, police say, and the situation is just one sign of the larger opiate problem that has taken hold in Ohio and other parts of the country. That problem persists, even as treatment options for addiction have narrowed for many low-income people.

• Finally, how’d that Democratic presidential primary contest go just south of the Ohio River last night? It was a nail-biter. Dem frontrunner Hillary Clinton ended up pulling out a slim victory over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. She took 46.8 percent of the vote, netting 29 delegates, to Sanders’ 46.3 percent of the vote and 27 delegates.

The contest didn’t matter much numerically — Clinton still has a comfortable lead in the overall primary, and Sanders only the narrowest path to victory, even with his win in Oregon’s primary last night. But Clinton desperately wants to put the primary behind her and focus on the general election, where she’s likely to face off against GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump. The problem for her: Democratic voters aren’t lining up behind her yet, instead continuing to support Sanders’ populist campaign and somewhat more liberal message. Upcoming early June primaries should put Clinton over the top numbers-wise for the nomination, but even after she sews up the primary, she’ll have a bigger task: wooing Sanders supporters to back her in the general election. That may be a big hill to climb, given what happened in Nevada last week and the overall contentiousness of the Democratic primary this season.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> Do you live in Kentucky? Well, if you do, it's primary day! Unfortunately, it looks like Kentucky's primary has come too late for Republicans to participate in what was the GOP presidential show down. Kentuckians won't be able to vote on which Republican they'd like to see in the White House because Trump became the presumed nominee earlier this month after all other candidates dropped out. But Democrats can still cast their votes for Team Clinton or Team Sanders. If that's not enough to get you to the polls, you can also vote on one of the little-known candidates running for Rand Paul's U.S. Senate seat and who gets to fill the vacant spot in the state House left by retiring state Rep. Tom Kerr. 

• University of Cincinnati construction partner Skanska and Megan Construction announced Monday that it has signed a $70 million deal to begin renovating the Bearcats' basketball arena in June. The University says it's still fundraising to come up with the rest of the money for the planned $87 million renovation of Fifth Third Arena. The announcement appears to be UC's latest attempt to flaunt its feathers to convince Big 12 officials to allow the university to join the conference, which UC has been trying to join for two years. UC officials are scheduled to meet with Big 12 officials in Dallas in two weeks.

• The Centers for Disease Control is concerned that Kentucky's heroin crisis is leading to another possible crisis: an AIDS/HIV outbreak. The CDC has ranked Kentucky as the state with the highest risk for an HIV outbreak, placing thirteen of the state's counties on its top 20 at-risk list. The federal agency began analyzing every U.S. county after the virus rapidly spread through needle sharing in rural Scott County, Indiana, which has a population of just 20,000 people, and found 220 counties posed a high risk for an outbreak, which includes nearby Brown and Adams counties in Ohio.

• Less than two weeks after bidding farewell to his shot at the White House, Gov. John Kasich sat down on Monday with CNN's Anderson Cooper. In his first interview since dropping out of the race, Kasich told Cooper he wasn't quite ready to endorse presumed Republican nominee Donald Trump, he definitely won't be running as a third party candidate and Republicans need to start appealing to more minority groups if they hope to win the election.
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Hey all. Let’s do this news thing.

Democrat presidential primary front runner Hillary Clinton came to Northern Kentucky yesterday for some last-minute campaigning before the state’s primary tomorrow. Clinton mostly bashed her likely general election opponent, real estate magnate and GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump, and didn’t mention her primary opponent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was also campaigning around the state. In addition to landing punches against Trump, Clinton touched on local issues like replacing the Brent Spence Bridge and the region’s heroin crisis. There has been limited polling in Kentucky, so it’s hard to know who’s ahead. The primary is closed, meaning independents can’t vote in it. That should help Clinton. On the other hand, the state’s demographic makeup — heavily white and working class — looks to work in Sanders’ favor, given results in other states. Stay tuned.

• Speaking of the Brent Spence, the bridge carrying I-75 over the Ohio River into Kentucky just got some national media attention. It’s not necessarily the good kind of press, though. The Hill, a D.C.-centric publication covering national politics and policy, put the 53-year-old bridge at the top of an article about the nation’s “Five Big Infrastructure Emergencies.” The article highlighted the struggle over how to pay for a replacement and the fact that the bridge carries four percent of the nation’s gross national product over it every year.

• Cincinnati has scored its biggest major conference since 2012, but the crowds won’t be coming for a little bit. The African American Methodist Episcopalian Church announced yesterday it will hold its 2024 convention in Cincinnati. It’s one of the largest African American conventions in the country and is expected to draw 20,000 people. The last time the city saw that many guests at once was the World Choir Games four years ago. It’s not the only convention Cincinnati has slated, however. This year, the NAACP will hold its national conference here, which is expected to draw 10,000 people and is one of the most important political conventions in the country — an especially big get for the city considering we’re in the midst of one of the most intense presidential campaigns in modern memory.

• There is about to be a beer garden on Central Parkway in Over-the-Rhine. Queen City Radio, named for the former business that occupied the location at West 12th Street, will carry local brews like Braxton, Listermann’s, Rhinegeist, Morelein, Madtree, Rivertown and others. It’s also right next to the Central Parkway Bikeway, something owners and siblings Louisa Reckman and Gabriel Deutsch have highlighted as a reason for choosing the location. The two expect to open in July.

• Former house speaker John Boehner spoke this weekend at Xavier University’s graduation, though he didn’t drop any news-making bombs about the 2016 presidential election like he did at an earlier speech at Stanford last month. Boehner, who graduated from Xavier before his career in Congress, stuck mostly to the inspirational fare common to commencement addresses. But in true form, he did tear up a little bit. Boehner last month told a group of students at Stanford that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, then a presidential primary contender, was "Lucifer in the flesh."

• Kentucky public schools will resist an order from the federal government requiring it to recognize the expressed gender identity of transgender students, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has said. That sets up a big fight between the state, as well as some others in the South, and the federal government. President Barack Obama announced the measure, an effort to clarify standards under the anti-sex-discrimination law known as Title IX. Bevin says the order amounts to intimidation by the feds, however, and that Kentucky won’t comply.

• Following the exit of the last opponents to GOP presidential primary presumptive nominee Donald Trump, some bigwigs in the party have taken up an effort to draft a third-party candidate to compete against the real estate mogul and his Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton. But Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who was briefly Trump’s last opponent standing, won’t be that candidate. Despite being on a shortlist of possible Trump/Clinton challengers, a staffer for Kasich’s campaign told Columbus’ 10TV that Kasich isn’t interested in that particular suicide mission, which is perhaps the most clear-headed decision the governor has made in this whole mess.

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

Hey hey Cincinnati. It’s gorgeous, it’s Friday, it’s spring, so let’s get this news thing over with quickly.

Let’s play good news, bad news, shall we? First, a new ranking puts Cincinnati as the top city in the country for recent college grads when it comes to jobs. That ranking from ZipRecruiter.com, a job-searching site, considered job availability, number of young folks in a city, affordability and a number of other measures when putting together its list. Good news, it would seem.

• Bad news: A program that provides low-cost or free bus fare for the city’s lowest income residents is in danger of disappearing, possibly exacerbating Cincinnati’s already difficult transit situation. Everybody Rides Metro works with 100 social service providers in the area to make sure some 30,000 low-income folks have access to transit so they can get to jobs and other important places. But the nonprofit is facing the loss of $200,000 a year from the federal government, a big chunk of its budget.

• Are you ready for the election? In 2017? Local political players are already gearing up for what is sure to be an intense contest as both Council and mayoral elections jump off. Mayor John Cranley is preparing by… going to Columbus. Cranley made the trip to the capital last week for a Democratic fundraiser for his reelection campaign. “I have to prepare to defend myself,” the mayor told media after the event. Cranley’s had a tough year, with the resounding defeat of a parks ballot initiative he went all-in on, the tumultuous dismissal of Cincinnati Police Department Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and other rocky events over the past 365 days. Cranley doesn’t have any confirmed primary or general election opponents yet, though Councilwoman Yvette Simpson’s name has been floated as a possible challenger.

• Speaking of the mayor of Cincinnati, a major TV show threw a diss our way yesterday. The season finale of Scandal, a political drama that kinda makes hyper-unrealistic H
ouse of Cards look like a documentary, got a low blow in during a particularly dramatic moment. The plot points are complicated, but basically, a fictional former GOP president is throwing support behind his ex-wife, the current GOP nominee, after passing on an endorsement in the primary. As he does, though, he tells her he doesn’t get any respect, saying, “You're treating me like an unpopular, first-term mayor of Cincinnati, Mellie.”

Some folks have wondered whether this is a Cranley putdown, but that seems incredibly unlikely. Most viewers of a overheated political soap opera are unlikely to to be aware of a medium-sized city’s mayor, especially one who hasn’t been embroiled in any national controversy. A slightly more likely, but still remote possibility: The line is a crack on former Cincinnati mayor Jerry Springer, who, well, you know. The most likely possibility, however, is that Cincinnati here is used as shorthand for “unimportant Midwestern city.” It’s a name people know, but don’t really know anything about. It’s in Ohio, perennially the punchline for flyover country jokes (you could fill a book with the slights Cleveland has received in pop culture in the last decade). So, clever joke about our mayor, or lazy joke about our city? I’m betting on the latter.

• The U.S. Department of Education has instructed public schools that they must allow transgender students to use the bathrooms corresponding with their expressed gender identities. Bathroom rights for transgender people have been a big issue since North Carolina passed a law restricting access to bathrooms for transgender people, who the state says need to use restrooms corresponding to their physical sex, not to the gender identity they express. The Department of Education says that such laws, and similar rules created in schools, violate Title IX, the federal government's anti-sex discrimination law.

• Finally, I’ve already taken you ahead to the 2017 election. Let’s press onward to 2018! Why not? God knows this year isn’t providing enough excitement and stress for us all. Anyway, Ohio’s gubernatorial race two years from now may already be lining up, with popular former Democratic state lawmaker Connie Pillich making motions like she’s going to run. Pillich won’t confirm the rumors herself, but many state party officials say she’s considering it. She’s also stacked a large amount of cash — nearly $150,000 — in her campaign fund, even though she doesn’t face reelection this year. Pillich ran for State Treasurer in 2014, but lost to GOPer Josh Mandel during a very, very tough year for state Democrats. Pillich, from Cincinnati, polled a full 10 points ahead of the Democrat gubernatorial candidate that year. The 55-year-old Air Force veteran says she’s focused on aiding Democrats in the 2016 presidential and down-ballot races, but it’s never too early to save for future projects, eh?

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> Hey all. It’s been a busy 24 hours in Cincinnati. Here’s what’s happened. 

Cincinnati City Council yesterday passed a resolution recognizing an alternative ID card for undocumented immigrants, the homeless and others that will be sponsored by the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati and issued by Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio. The card is intended to provide a little extra dignity for the homeless, undocumented, those returning from incarceration and others who may have trouble getting a state-issued ID. City officials say it will also help emergency personnel and other municipal bodies better serve some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

• Council also approved $315,000 in planning funding for a proposed bridge between South Cumminsville and Central Parkway near Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. Currently, an exit from I-74 serves as a gateway between the neighborhood and the college, but it’s being removed as the Ohio Department of Transportation continues its revamp of the I-75 corridor. The proposed bridge has been controversial, and some council members argued it’s unnecessary as bigger infrastructure needs like the Western Hills Viaduct loom. The viaduct, which will need replacement in the next decade, will cost hundreds of millions to fix. Mayor John Cranley, who supports the so-called Elmore Street Bridge in South Cumminsville, says the viaduct replacement is a separate matter that will hinge heavily on state funding, and that the Elmore Bridge will provide much-needed economic benefits to the neighborhoods it serves.

• Council didn’t talk about it in their meeting yesterday, but shortly afterward, city administration dropped a minor bombshell about Cincinnati’s streetcar. Per a memo from City Manager Harry Black, the city will pay $500,000 less than expected for the five streetcars it purchased from CAF USA, the company that constructed them. That’s because some of the cars were delivered late. The cars were supposed to be in the city’s hands by December last year, but the last one wasn’t delivered until earlier this month. The late deliveries didn’t cause any delays in implementation of the transit project, but a clause in the contract between CAF and the city stipulates the financial penalty for late delivery. The city will withhold the money from its payments to CAF.

• The Greater Cincinnati area’s largest construction company is moving its headquarters from Bond Hill to the West End after 
Cincinnati City Council yesterday approved a land deal with Messer Construction. The company will get land at 930 Cutter St. from the city for $2 to build its new $12.5 million headquarters, which will house more than 115 employees. Mayor John Cranley said the deal was an incentive to keep Messer here, and calls it a “huge win” for the city. Messer has said that they were attracted to the location because it’s close to redevelopment happening in downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

• Meanwhile, Hamilton County Commissioners yesterday voted to move the Hamilton County Board of Elections headquarters from Broadway Avenue in downtown Cincinnati to Norwood. Voting access advocates have decried this move, saying it will make the BOE harder to get to for many in the county and that the HQ should stay centrally located downtown. Supporters of the move, including board of elections members like Hamilton County Democratic Chairman Tim Burke, say the Norwood location will be more central for everyone in the county. Both the four-member board of elections and three-member county commission unanimously approved the move. The move won’t happen until after the 2016 election cycle.

• Here’s an interesting piece about the increasing amount Cincinnati Public Schools spends on advertising to try and compete with the area’s 50 or so charter schools. CPS spent more than $123,000 on billboard, radio and TV ads aimed at parents of children in the district. Next year, that looks to increase to $345,000. CPS loses hundreds of thousands of dollars to charters every year, though that loss has been decreasing recently. The marketing expenditures are somewhat in line with other large urban school districts in Ohio, though far less than suburban schools nearby, many of which have little to worry about in terms of competing with charters.

• Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio yesterday filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Ohio over recently passed legislation seeking to strip state and some federal funds from the women’s healthcare provider. Conservative lawmakers cite the fact that Planned Parenthood provides abortions as the reason for the move, though the funds being kept from the organization go to health screenings and sex education, not abortions. In its suit, Planned Parenthood claims the law, which will go into effect later this month, is an illegal attempt to penalize it for providing abortions.

• Breaking news: there’s drama in the GOP. Well, ok, you probably already knew that, but anyway. The hangover from the party’s presidential primary is still on the horizon for a lot of Republicans, and one of them could be Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel. As a statewide GOPer, Mandel was expected to line up behind Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s presidential bid. But instead, Mandel endorsed Rubio, tweaking Kasich’s nose several times in the process. Those snubs included predicting that Kasich would leave the race quickly and voting for Rubio in the Ohio GOP primary. Mandel has made moves to court the hardline conservatives in his party, whose support he will surely need, according to this Cleveland Plain Dealer op-ed, since the Kasich wing of the Ohio GOP now has him squarely in their crosshairs.

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<![CDATA[Council Passes Resolution Recognizing Alternate IDs]]> Cincinnati City Council today passed a resolution recognizing coming alternate photo ID cards supplied by a group of social service organizations for the homeless, undocumented immigrants, those recently returning from incarceration and others who face challenges getting standard state IDs.

Many in the faith and social service communities cheered the move, though some city officials and residents expressed concerns, mostly related to undocumented immigrants.

The IDs, which will be funded by the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati and issued by Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio, aim to give individuals without state IDs a level of dignity while guaranteeing they will be quickly served by first responders, police and other city personnel. MARCC represents 17 religious denominations active in Cincinnati.

Ronnie Phillips, who is a Streetvibes vendor and Cincinnati resident, says the new ID would be vital to daily life for those who don’t have state ID. Phillips said the cards could be a stepping stone toward getting jobs or housing for those who don’t have government-issued ID cards.

Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Josh Spring calls the cards “a first step” toward that larger goal.

The IDs won’t be a replacement for state IDs when it comes to applying for jobs and housing, where federal regulations require government identification. However, city officials including Mayor John Cranley and Democrats on Council hope the cards will still help those without other government IDs, especially when interacting with emergency personnel.

“This resolution is important because our police know that when individual victims fail to report crime, it emboldens criminals to act again without consequence,” Mayor John Cranley said at a news conference before Council’s vote. “Vulnerable citizens, returning citizens, non-driving senior citizens and others who lack the ability to obtain a state-issued ID are often reluctant to report crimes, even when they’ve been victimized personally. Having an ID that will encourage people to report crimes will make our city safer.”

Cranley says the Cincinnati Police Department has been involved in the months-long effort to set up the ID program and has agreed to recognize the MARCC IDs. 

The card will cost $15 and be good for a year at a time. Programs will be available to help provide the cards to those who cannot afford the fee.

“The MARCC ID may seem like a little thing if you already have an ID,” said Catholic Charities CEO Ted Berg. “If you don’t have an ID, it’s a way to protect the human rights of the most vulnerable and a way to give someone something that identifies them as part of the community.”

Berg says immigrants fleeing violence in Central America, including many women and children, desperately need measures to keep them safer.

“The need for this is significant. It doesn’t give [legal] status to anyone,” said Kurt Grossman, Immigration Chair for the American Jewish Committee of Cincinnati. Grossman is also a member of Mayor Cranley’s Immigration Taskforce, which generated the ID concept. “The city doesn’t have the authority to do that – that’s a matter of federal law — but it does bring dignity and safety to a broad spectrum of our community.”  

Some on Council balked at voting for the resolution, instead abstaining over what they said were lingering questions about the ID program.

Councilman Kevin Flynn said he had reservations because he thought the program created the perception that the cards would solve problems they couldn’t actually tackle, including the need for ID when applying for jobs and housing. Flynn said he supported the idea in theory, but joined fellow council members Amy Murray, Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman in abstaining from the vote on the resolution.

Murray said she liked the general idea of the IDs, but was concerned about the vetting process involved in issuing them and what forms of foreign ID would be accepted for undocumented individuals seeking the IDs.

Many crowded into Council chambers to speak about the program. Most expressed support, but some pushed back, citing opposition to undocumented immigrants.

“I understand Cincinnati wants to be a welcoming city. But there is a legal way for people to get an ID,” said Richard Hahn, who spoke before Council against the resolution. “It’s the Ohio state ID. In the case of an illegal alien or undocumented immigrant, it is against federal law to aid them in this way. What’s to prevent one from obtaining the ID document under different names? Ricardo one day, maybe Jose the next.”

Officials from Catholic Charities say the vetting process for the IDs for undocumented people will include reviewing identification information from other countries, including passports, driver’s licenses and consular IDs. Catholic Charities officials say they expect to issue between 2,000 and 3,000 cards in the program’s first year.

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<![CDATA[Planned Parenthood Sues Ohio over Law Defunding the Organization]]> Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit over an Ohio state law that stands to strip the organization of its federal funding to provide services like HIV and cancer screenings, domestic violence education and sex education for kids in the foster care and judicial system. 

The law, signed by Gov. John Kasich in February, bars any organization from receiving federal funding if it provides abortions that are not medically necessary or from pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. When it goes into effect later this month, Planned Parenthood of Ohio, the largest abortion provider in the state, will lose $1.4 million, which it says does not go to fund its abortion services. 

Planned Parenthood of Ohio and Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio Region's lawsuit says the law is unconstitutional, claiming it could affect tens of thousands of Ohioans' access to health care, disproportionally targeting minorities and low-income people.

“We are in court because everyone deserves access to quality, affordable, compassionate care no matter who you are or where you are from," Iris E. Harvey, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, says. "Let’s call this what it is, an attack on people who already have the least access to care, all in the name of politics.”

Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio serves 20 counties and says 75 percent of its patients are low-income. 

In an amendment attached to the House bill, lawmakers redirected $250,000 into other community health organizations that do not provide abortions. 

But Planned Parenthood claims these clinics aren't immediately in a position to fill the health care gaps it would leave, which would include 70,000 free STD screenings it provides through a Centers for Disease Control program and 5,000 free HIV tests for populations at high risk for the virus. 

"Even if other health care providers are eventually able to provide similar services," the lawsuit reads, "many patients’ health care and access to other services will be disrupted because other providers are not prepared to assume responsibility for those services." 

On the other hand, if Planned Parenthood chooses to comply with the law to receive funding by ceasing to provide abortions at its Mount Auburn clinic, Cincinnati would become the largest metropolitan area in the country without an abortion provider. The organization argues that this also creates a constitutionally prohibited "undue burden" to obtain the procedure by forcing women to travel as far as Columbus or Cleveland. 

The law is the latest in a series of laws passed under the Kasich administration targeting abortion providers. More than half of Ohio's abortion clinics have closed since Kasich took office in 2011. 

Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio filed another federal lawsuit against the state of Ohio law last September, claiming other recently passed restrictions involving changes in the abortion license renewal process and required patient-transfer agreements with private hospitals also unlawfully restricted a woman's right to access abortion. That suit is ongoing.
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Good morning, Cincy! Here are your morning headlines.

• Cincinnati City Council is expected to vote today on whether the city will accept a city ID card issued by the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati that is targeted towards homeless individuals, undocumented immigrants and those transitioning back into the community from incarceration. Mayor John Cranley, Councilmembers P.G. Sittenfeld and Chris Seelbach and Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac, along with other community leaders, are holding a press conference at 11 a.m. in front of City Hall to present the details of the card's plan.

• The former acting chief of staff at the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Clinic is fighting back against recent disciplinary action taken against her by the Feds. Dr. Barbara Temeck was removed from her high-ranking position last February, after the Department of Veterans Affairs said it found that she was unlawfully prescribing medication to another VA employee's spouse. Temeck, who was demoted to a data-entry position, says the move was made in retaliation for her efforts to call out the inappropriate overreach into the clinic by UC Health and medical-school officials that caused a decline in the quality of care and wasted millions of tax dollars in overtime pay. Temeck filed a complaint in March with the Office of Special Council, a federal agency that protects whistleblowers.

• The long-awaited streetcar is inching closer to opening to the public. The contractors who build the streetcar recently pitched in $40,000 for its opening, and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority says it's been working behind the scenes for four months to the opening that has not been set, but will likely be in the first half of September. SORTA did reveal that it will offer a $10 all-you-can-ride token for the first week of the streetcar's operation and will allow the public to buy streetcar tickets online. 

• The Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that would legalize medical marijuana—with many, many restrictions. The bill, which lawmakers spent months debating and tweaking in committee, would allow patients with just 20 different diseases to use the drug in a vapor form and would require users with a prescription to have a special state-issued ID. Smoking the plant would remain illegal and plants grown for medicinal use could only contain 35 percent THC. One of bill's more controversial stipulations would still allow employers to fire employees if marijuana is found in their system, even if ingested legally. The bill will now move onto the state's Senate where, it it passes, it will move onto Gov. John Kasich's desk to be signed into law. 

• Donald Trump may be the presumed Republican presidential nominee, but Vermont Sen. Bernie Sander's victory in West Virginia's Tuesday primary shows the Democrats are still battling it out. Sanders is now campaigning hard in Oregon, which holds its primary next week, to get some of the state's unpledged superdelegates to look like a stronger competitor against Trump at the Democratic National Convention in July. Frontrunner Hillary Clinton currently has 523 pledged superdelegates compared to just 39 for Sanders.]]>
<![CDATA[Ohio House Passes Medicinal Marijuana Bill]]>

For some sufferers of chronic and painful diseases, a new (or at least newly legal) form of relief might be on the way.

After lengthy debate, the Ohio House of Representatives today passed a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in certain, highly specific circumstances and forms.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Steven A Huffman (R-Tipp City), would allow patients suffering from 20 diseases including cancer, AIDS and epilepsy to buy and ingest the drug via a vaporizer, which converts the plant into steam instead of smoke. Plants grown for medicinal use could contain only 35 percent THC. Home growing would not be permitted, and smoking marijuana is still illegal, necessitating the other ingestion methods.

Those and a slew of other stipulations, including one that allows employers to discipline or fire employees with marijuana in their systems even if it was ingested legally, are the results of months of wrangling between lawmakers over the bill.

That drew the ire of some state lawmakers, including State Rep. Alicia Reece, a Democrat who represents Cincinnati. Reece expressed concerns that the proviso allowing employers to punish medicinal marijuana use could fall more heavily on African Americans.

Despite disagreement over details, the bill passed easily, 70-25. Even conservative Republican lawmakers wanted to pass some medicinal marijuana legislation ahead of two ballot initiatives that could come before voters in November that would legalize medicinal marijuana. But that was where the agreement ended, at least until today.

As it neared passage, the bill got much stricter and now includes requirements that patients seeking medicinal marijuana have a special state-issued ID card, limiting patients to a 90-day supply of the drug, along with other limitations.

On the other hand, some changes could create more access to the drug. Those include a provision that would find ways to help eligible military veterans afford medicinal marijuana and removing the drug from the most dangerous state drug classification to a lower, less serious one.

The bill now goes on to the state Senate, where lawmakers are expected to make further slight tweaks. Once it passes there, it will go to Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s desk. Kasich has expressed openness to giving the green light to limited legalization of medicinal marijuana. Polling in Ohio shows a large majority of citizens here favor the move.

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

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

Cincinnati City Council will vote Wednesday on whether the city should accept ID cards for homeless residents and undocumented immigrants. The resolution, which a local coalition of religious groups has been advocating for months, would make Cincinnati the first city in the state to accept the cards issued by the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati, which includes Jewish, Catholic, Islamic, Baptist and other faith groups. The cards are designed to provide an added sense of dignity and ease the process of finding housing, employment and other necessities for immigrants, homeless individuals and those returning from incarceration.

• Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing is in court this morning for another pretrial hearing related to charges against him in the shooting death of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose. Tensing’s attorneys say he was afraid of being dragged under DuBose’s car when he shot the motorist in the head. Inititally, Tensing said that DuBose began driving away before he was shot, and that the officer was dragged by DuBose’s car. Body camera footage contradicted those statements, however. Tensing will stand trial on murder and manslaughter chargers in October.

• Former House Speaker and West Chester resident John Boehner might no longer be campaigning for office or directing floor votes in the House, but he does still have some skin in the political game. Namely, he has about $2.5 million in reelection campaign accounts that have few restrictions in terms of usage. Boehner has been using this money to keep in politics from beyond retirement, giving some to Republican colleagues for their own reelection bids and for other political projects. That’s pretty routine, as there are few regulations on how retired politicians spend their campaign funds, so long as they don’t go all Tom Haverford and decide to treat themselves to the cash. Boehner’s leftover funds are noteworthy mostly for the amount of money sitting in those old accounts, the spoils of one of the GOP’s top fundraisers.  

• Ohio’s prison population has risen 15 percent in the past decade, according to a report from a committee convened by lawmakers to study possible changes in Ohio’s justice system. That increase has happened despite a decrease in crime rates and almost entirely stems from drug-related incarcerations. Today, Ohio’s prisons are at 132 percent of their intended capacity. Despite continued low crime rates, Ohio’s prison population could hit a record high this summer, experts warn.

• Democrat presidential primary front runner Hillary Clinton will open up a campaign office in Covington, officials with her election bid announced yesterday. The campaign will launch in-person canvassing efforts as well as phone voter engagement efforts from the forthcoming HQ, which will be on Pike Street. Clinton has a big delegate lead over opponent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders ahead of Kentucky’s May 17 Democratic primary.

• Speaking of Clinton, a new poll shows her trailing presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump in Ohio, but only by the slimmest of margins. A new Quinnipiac poll shows Trump leading Clinton 43 to 39 among Ohioans, though the poll has a three percent margin of error. That’s in contrast to results for Clinton’s opponent Sanders, who leads Trump in that poll by two points. Clinton leads Trump in that poll in other vital swing states Pennsylvania and Florida by small margins. The Quinnipiac poll contradicts other recent polling showing Clinton leading in Ohio, and national polls show Clinton beating Trump by a larger margin. With or without Ohio, Trump faces a challenging electoral college map this November.

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<![CDATA[Clifton Town Meeting to CPS: Don't Use Survey]]>

A community group representing Clifton residents has taken issue with a survey sent out by Cincinnati Public Schools that could influence the fate of the embattled Clifton Cultural Arts Center.

CityBeat reported last week on the battle over the Clifton School Building, which is currently occupied by the CCAC. The arts organization has leased the building on Clifton Avenue from CPS since 2008, though CPS recently told the arts center that it is considering terminating its lease and taking the building back.

As part of its outreach to neighborhood residents ahead of the decision about the building, which could come as early as the end of this month, CPS sent out a survey to 11,817 Clifton residents to gauge the neighborhood's interest in the school. The district also sent out a similar version of the survey to 860 families in Clifton Heights, University Heights and Fairview (CUF) and Spring Grove Village, which would also be using the proposed school.

But in a May 9 letter addressed to the CPS Board of Education members and CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan, CTM President Eric Urbas writes that the organization believes the survey asks confusing and biased questions. 

"We warned the Administration that the survey was flawed, but it was sent out anyway," the letter reads. "Now we are alerting you that if the survey results are used, they will only lead to bad decisions." 

Results are due back by May 15, according to CPS spokeswoman Janet Walsh. The survey's results will factor into CPS's decision on whether to create a new school in the current home of the CCAC, which the arts center currently leases from CPS for $1 in rent per year along with the cost of the building's pricey upkeep. The arts group has also poured more than $2 million into the building for upgrades and renovations.

Walsh says CPS had discussions with Clifton Town Meeting about the survey, which was written by the CPS Board of Education and CPS staff members, but says community input goes beyond Clifton residents.

"We don't have time to have the world sign on to it," Walsh says. "We're just trying to get information in a timely manner." 

Malcolm Montgomery, the vice president of Clifton Town Meeting, says CTM's concerns with CPS go beyond just the survey. It would like to see the district host more community meetings and discussions before it goes forward with any plan to build a new school. 

"For any school to succeed, it's got to have strong parent backing, and you don’t get that from a survey," Montgomery says. "You don't get that from press releases. You get that from honest engagement from the community."

The CCAC, CTM and the Fairview-Clifton German Language School are set to meet for an hour at CPS's Burnet Avenue headquarters on May 12 to discuss options for the new school and CCAC's future.

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

Good morning all. Here’s what’s happening today.

Critics of U.S. Senator Rob Portman are getting louder in their opposition as the Republican faces a tough re-election campaign this year. A group will gather outside his Cincinnati headquarters today for a news conference around Portman’s refusal to consider President Barack Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Merick Garland.

The presser, organized by Progress Ohio, will feature voting rights advocate Samuel Gresham, immigration law expert Jorge Martinez and Sandy Theis, director of Why Courts Matter Ohio, according to a news release from the group. SCOTUS, which currently has eight members instead of the usual nine after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last year, has seen big cases around immigration and voting rights recently. Portman is neck and neck with Democrat challenger Ohio governor Ted Strickland in Ohio’s Senate race. He's fallen in line with other GOP Senators and said he thinks the next president should pick Scalia’s replacement. Portman has indicated he does not support extending a Senate hearing for any Obama nominee.

• Are you a skywalker or a street crosser? There’s a big fight brewing over the skywalk that links Music Hall to a parking garage west of the historic Cincinnati landmark, and as the building is renovated, the bridge over Central Parkway could be removed. City parking officials say the skywalk is well beyond its lifespan, could present a hazard to the public and could be removed in June as part of Music Hall’s $135 million renovation. But Mayor John Cranley is insisting the skywalk be saved. Replacing the bridge could cost up to $4 million. Tearing it down would cost about $700,000.

• Three Cincinnati buildings downtown designed by famed Chicago architect Daniel Burnham are getting a $100 million redevelopment, and they’ve been named historic landmarks in the process. The Cincinnati Planning Committee voted Friday to bestow that status on the Fourth and Walnut Centre, built in 1904, which Texas-based owners Newcrestimage, LLC will soon turn into multiple hotels.

• Last year, Ohio’s charter school system was rocked by revelations that data about those schools was rigged by an employee within the Ohio Department of Education to make certain charter school sponsors appear better, mostly by omitting data about low-performing online schools. Now, a former employee of one of those online schools has revealed how attendance data there was fudged to make the school look more successful than it actually was.

Brianne Kramer worked at the Ohio Virtual Academy last year, where she says 487 students had failed to log into classes 11 weeks into the school year. Yet only 89 were reported as truant. That was part of bigger attendance reporting problems the school faces, according to critics of the online schools. You can read all about those problems in this Columbus Dispatch story. Charter officials and supporters say the school works students who miss hours to get them back on track and that the attendance stats don't tell the whole story.

• The GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump has been a polarizing figure within the party, to say the least. So it’s interesting to take note of which Republican politicians in the region are lining up behind him and which are still expressing reticence about the real estate mogul and reality TV star.

Among bigwigs pledging support: U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Cincinnati-area U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup, Hamilton County Commissioners Dennis Deters and Chris Monzel, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Hamilton County Republican Party Chair Alex Triantafilou and others. Meanwhile, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have yet to weigh in on Trump. Bevin has said he won’t endorse in the primary. Kasich took a full-tilt run against Trump in the GOP battle and was Trump’s last opponent before he dropped out last week.

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