CityBeat Blogs - Urban Planning http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-34-112.html <![CDATA[Anna Louise Inn Wins Zoning Appeal]]>

In the ongoing saga of Western & Southern vs. the Anna Louise Inn, there have been several court cases and zoning rulings, most of which have been appealed by one side or the other. Today it was the Cincinnati Zoning Board of Appeals’ turn to rule on something that’s already been ruled on, and it went in favor of the Anna Louise Inn. 

The Board upheld a certificate of appropriateness for the Anna Louise Inn’s planned renovation, which essentially also upholds the Historic Conservation Board’s right to issue a conditional use permit — at least for now. Western & Southern is expected to appeal that permit, granted by the Conservation Board Aug. 27, before its 30-day window to do so expires. 

Before this series of appeals can play out, the 1st District Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the Anna Louise Inn’s appeal of Judge Norbert Nadel’s May 27 ruling, which set in motion the Inn’s attempts to secure zoning approval from the Historical Conservation Board in the first place. 

(All of this could have been avoided if Western & Southern would have purchased the Anna Louise Inn when it had the chance. CityBeat previously reported the details of Western & Southern’s failure to purchase the Inn and the company’s subsequent attempts to force the Inn out of the neighborhood here.)

About 40 people attended today’s hearing, including City Councilman Wendell Young, who said he supports the Anna Louise Inn but was not there to testify on its behalf. 

By upholding the certificate of appropriateness, the ruling keeps alive a conditional use permit that could allow the Anna Louise Inn to move forward with a $13 million renovation of its historic building, once the expected appeals process plays out. (CityBeat covered the Aug. 27 Historical Conservation Board hearing here.)

The Board heard brief arguments from lawyers for both Western & Southern and Cincinnati Union Bethel and then entered executive session for about 15 minutes before ruling in favor of the Anna Louise Inn. 

Western & Southern lawyer Francis Barrett, who is the brother of Western & Southern CEO John Barrett and a member of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees, told CityBeat after the meeting that he disagreed with the board’s finding because a designed expansion of the building’s fifth floor has not yet had its use approved. 

“With this case, the Historical Conservation Board is basically approving for the certificate of appropriateness the design of the building,” Barrett said. “But the design included an expansion of the fifth floor, and until that use issue is resolved the code reads, in my opinion, you can’t approve the design because the use hasn’t been approved.”

Barrett during the hearing read a written statement to the board arguing two main points: that the Historic Conservation Board didn’t have the jurisdiction to grant the certificate of appropriateness; and even if it did, Barrett argued, the physical expansion planned makes it a non-conforming use which wouldn’t qualify for the building permit. 

Cincinnati Union Bethel attorney Tim Burke told the Board that the Anna Louise Inn is not seeking a permit for non-conforming use because it already received a conditional use permit from the Historic Conservation Board. 

“Western & Southern is doing everything it can to block this renovation from happening,” Burke told the Board.

At the Historic Conservation Board hearing last month Western & Southern tried paint a picture of the Anna Louise Inn’s residents contributing to crime in the area because a condition of the conditional use permit is that the building’s use will not be detrimental to public health and safety or negatively affect property values in the neighborhood. But the Board granted the permit, stating that the Anna Louise Inn will not be detrimental to public health and safety or harmful to nearby properties in the neighborhood and that the Board found no direct evidence connecting residents of the Anna Louise Inn to criminal activity in the neighborhood. Western & Southern has until next week to appeal that ruling.

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<![CDATA[Tucker's Restaurant Could Claim Cincinnati's First Parklet]]> There's not much green in the area of Over-the-Rhine north of Liberty Street, where Vine Street still finds itself home to a slew vacant buildings, vandalism and littered sidewalks. You won't find trees; just the occasional wayward clumps of grass that manage to triumph through cracks in the concrete.

That's an odd dichotomy to correspond with a neighborhood claiming the largest area of historic Italianate architecture in the country.

As efforts to preserve historic landmarks across the neighborhood continue to flourish, others are taking notice of another key element in revitalization that's been neglected: the presence of a safe, green public space that could spark a type of interest in urban renewal more conscious of natural greenery and it. That's been achieved in the area of Over-the-Rhine south of Liberty Street with the expansive Washington Park, leaving its northern counterpart noticeably more drab.

That sentiment is what propelled a trio of designers and architects to mold a proposal for a parklet in front of Tucker's Restaurant, an iconic Over-the-Rhine greasy spoon that attracts both locals and tourists in a somewhat deserted portion of the neighborhood, bereft of the nearby Gateway Quarter's bubbly atmosphere.

Mike Uhlenhake, a local architect, was first introduced to the parklet concept in San Francisco, where the parklet was founded and now flourishes. A parklet is exactly what it sounds like: a small, urban "park" that typically only occupies enough space to displace two parking spots. They're praised as a way to offer a public, green gathering point in urban areas where parks or wildlife are especially lacking; they might include trees, fountains, sculptures or small cafe tables.  Uhlenhake sensed the need for something similar in the northern area Over-the-Rhine, which remains largely untouched by the mass renovation efforts taking place just blocks away.

"That stretch [of Over-the-Rhine] really seems to lack life. It feels empty, like no people are ever on the street ... it needs a more homegrown feel," says Uhlenhake. "A place like Tucker's really deserves something like this if they want it."

When the University of Cincinnati Niehoff Urban Studio and the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati held the D.I.Y. Urbanism Competition this spring, Uhlenhake teamed up with two members of Flourish Cincinnati, Michelle Andersen and Becky Schneider, to create a formal entry for the contest, which can be found here or nestled in the back of Tucker's Restaurant on the rear wall.

Their proposal earned the People's Choice Award, which granted them $250 toward implementing the parklet. They've since partnered with local artist Alan Sauer, who assisted in the creation of Tucker's plot in Cincinnati PARK(ing) Day 2009, which staged a tiny patio in front of Tucker's featuring live music and chalk art.

Today, they're all working on putting together a PowerPoint presentation to present to City Council, which would provide an overview of the parklet, design sketches and an outline of its benefits. Once presented, City Council would just have to agree to give up the two parking spots directly in front of Tucker's; although Uhlenhake isn't exactly sure how much the parklet will cost, he's confident fundraising efforts will be all that's needed to foot the bill. Tucker's customers have been the main point of support, he says — dozens have offered to pledge some kind of help to make the vision come true after seeing the plan on Tucker's back wall.

"
This really needs to be a community project. The more people we can get to help, the better."
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<![CDATA[New Book Criticizes OTR's Development]]>

A social worker that has written a new book criticizing Cincinnati’s development efforts in Over-the-Rhine will conduct a book signing Thursday.

 

Alice Skirtz, a Cincinnati native, is the author of Econocide: Elimination of the Urban Poor. She will host a book signing from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at Skirtz & Johnston bakery at Findlay Market, 113 West Elder St.

 

Proceeds from book sales at the event will be given to the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. Skirtz is the founding organizer of the coalition.

 

The book profiles growing economic inequalities in the city that is reflected in policy debates over contentious issues like panhandling, homelessness, planning and funding for affordable housing, zoning for social service agencies and site selection for shelters.

 

Written from a social worker’s perspective, Econocide focuses on advocacy for people who are most vulnerable in society to promote and make sure they’re included in the socio-economic policies of local government.

 

"Based on over 40 years of experience in working with the urban poor, I wrote this book to call attention to how they have become increasingly at risk of being removed permanently from the community and civic life," Skirtz said. "The growth of privatization has led to increasing economic inequities, lessening influence in administrative and legislative affairs, and decreasing access to housing and even public spaces. I intend for this book to lead to a change in how we treat the urban poor."

 

The book includes a blurb by David Mann, a local attorney who also is an ex-Cincinnati mayor and former congressman.

 

“You cannot read her book without tears coming to your eyes at some point and without wondering why a supposedly enlightened society cannot better balance the needs of the least among us with overall economic health and viability,” Mann wrote. “You will ask yourself why we cannot do better.”

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<![CDATA[Rebuilding Cincinnati: City vs. Kasich]]> In his State of the City address last week, Mayor Mark Mallory called on Cincinnati to continue pushing for improvements. After years of stalling, projects like Washington Park’s renovation, the Horseshoe Casino and the streetcar are finally moving forward, and Mallory wants to make sure that work continues.

Politically and economically, it makes sense. Not only have voters approved of both the casino and the streetcar, but the projects will create jobs. Casino developers have already begun to fill what they promise will be 1,700 permanent jobs, and city estimates show the first segment of the streetcar will create 300 construction jobs and 25 permanent jobs.


But while voters and local politicians may approve, some state Republicans are doing their very best to tear the projects down. Gov. John Kasich, who dismantled Ohio’s passenger rail project, tried his hardest to continue his anti-transit rampage by railing against the streetcar in public speeches last year. He even ripped away more than $50 million in state funds from the project.


The casino has been a little luckier, but not by much. Kasich has claimed both neutrality and approval of casinos, but he has made building the Horseshoe Casino more difficult. Despite the fact Ohio has the highest casino tax in the nation, Kasich pushed for renegotiations for higher taxes and fees last year, ultimately delaying the casino’s opening from late 2012 to spring 2013.


For the governor, such actions probably make sense. Kasich has been an ardent supporter of tax cuts — sneaking them into every single budget even when Ohio had a reported $8 billion deficit. When he found massive education and health care cuts weren’t enough to close the gap he helped create, he moved onto casinos and transit projects.


Still, the projects move forward. Kasich and other state Republicans have not been successful in killing them off, largely thanks to local voters and local politicians pushing back.


Last year, voters rejected Issue 48, which tried to ban all investments in rail transportation for the next decade. Last week, Mallory announced CAF USA was already drawing up designs for the streetcar, and the first car could be finished as soon as 18 months from now.


Meanwhile, the casino’s construction is 35 to 40 percent complete, according to developers. This is despite an accident in January that resulted in the injury of 20 workers after a steel beam fell and caused a floor to partially collapse.


But what needs to be clear is that these developments are in spite of state Republicans like Kasich. When these job-creating projects are said and done, it’s important credit goes where credit is due — straight to local voters and local politicians.
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> After months of delays, a federal judge on Monday sentenced a once prominent Butler County politician to prison. U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Beckwith imposed a penalty of four years behind bars on Mike Fox, an ex-Butler County commissioner and former state representative. Fox's attorneys had tried to argue he should get home incarceration because he is morbidly obese and suffers from diabetes and depression, but Beckwith wasn't swayed. Fox agreed to a plea deal in early 2011 on charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and filing a false tax return.

In another sign that higher education and collegiate sports are becoming Big Business, Miami University in Oxford has trademarked the nickname, “Cradle of Coaches.” The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved the request last month, capping a two-year effort by school attorneys. The university has used the phrase since 1959.

Gov. John Kasich is expected to announce a plan Wednesday in which he will keep a campaign pledge to cut Ohio's income tax rate by filling the budget hole it will cause by by raising taxes on oil and gas companies involved with fracking.

A bus driver who drove into a local TV news van in January was found guilty Monday of making an improper lane change and was ordered to pay a $100 fine. Joann Searles, 48, was the driver of a GoBus that clipped the WCPO-TV (Channel 9) van during live coverage of a news conference on the Horseshoe Casino collapse on Jan. 27, just outside the construction site of the new casino on Gilbert Avenue, at the Greyhound Bus Terminal. Searles already has lost her job because of the incident. Here's an idea: Don't hold a press conference at a busy bus terminal or park your van in the middle of a driveway. Casino officials should give this lady a job.

City planners are seeking public input from residents about how Cincinnati should grow and be developed during the next 30 years. The city's Department of Community Planning and Buildings is drafting Cincinnati's first comprehensive plan since 1980 and will hold an open house Wednesday. It will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the seventh floor of Two Centennial Plaza, 805 Central Ave., downtown.

In news elsewhere, a federal investigation has concluded that managers at major banks ignored widespread errors in the foreclosure process, in some cases instructing employees to adopt make-believe titles and speed documents through the system despite internal objections. The probe by the Department of Housing and Urban Development said managers were aware of the problems but did nothing to correct them. Some of the banks involved include Bank Of America and Wells Fargo.

Some critics of President Obama are saying he's being given a pass on policies that would have triggered outrage if they had been done by his predecessor, George W. Bush. The actions include aggressively filling his reelection war chest with Super PAC money and approving shoot-to-kill orders against an American terror suspect overseas. The disconnect reveals a double standard, Politico reports.

A former editor at The Sun newspaper in Britain is among six people arrested by Scotland Yard detectives on suspicion of conspiracy to “pervert the course of justice,” as part of the investigation into telephone hacking by media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch. Rebekah Brooks, 43, was arrested this morning at her home. The arrests form the biggest single swoop yet by police in its ongoing investigation into alleged voicemail interception; so far, 23 people have been held, with two people released without charge.

At least 30 people are feared dead after a ferry collided with a barge in the Meghna River in Bangladesh. About 35 passengers were rescued by another ferry but more than 150 passengers remain unaccounted for, officials said.

A major detergent brand from Procter & Gamble has become the target of thieves nationwide, police said. Theft of Tide detergent has become so rampant that some cities are setting up special task forces to stop it. One thief in Minnesota stole $25,000 worth of the product before he was arrested last year. Tide has become a form of currency on the streets and the retail price is steadily high, making it a popular item on the black market.
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<![CDATA[OTR Chamber Announces Award Recipients]]>

The Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce today announced the winners of its annual Star Awards, which recognize organizations and individuals whose outstanding accomplishments contribute to the revitalization of its five distinct neighborhoods: Washington Park, Mohawk, Central, Pendleton and Findlay Market.

This year’s award winners:

Chairman’s Award: Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3cdc.org)

Norma Petersen Award: Topic Design (www.topicdesign.com)

New Business of the Year: A Tavola (1220 Vine St.; here’s a link to a recent CityBeat review of the modern and stylish pizza place.)

Business of the Year: dojo gelato (Findlay Market, dojogelato.com)

Non Profit Organization of the Year: Crossroad Health Center (crossroadhc.org)

Individual Contribution: Leslie Cook, First Lutheran/OTR Learning Center (www.firstlutherancincy.org/learning_center.html)

Special Recognition: Captain Douglas Wiesman, Cincinnati Police

Recipients will be honored at the OTR Chamber’s annual meeting and luncheon March 20 at Music Hall.

 

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<![CDATA[Old St. George Gets Cited]]>

Next month marks the fourth anniversary of a fire that destroyed parts of the historic Old St. George Church in Clifton Heights. But the structure remains vacant and building inspectors this week cited the owners for conditions at the site.

The city’s Property Maintenance Code Enforcement Division posted a citation Wednesday on the fence in front of the church. It was issued by Housing Inspector James Hatton, and states the building’s owner failed to comply with an order issued by the Buildings and Inspections Department on Aug. 31, 2010.---

For those keeping track, that order was issued almost 18 months ago. The violation is a Class D offense, which is punishable by a $500 fine. The owner must pay the fine or respond in writing within seven days, or the fine will double.

 

The church, which was built in 1873, is owned by the Clifton Heights Community Urban Redevelopment Corp. (CHCURC). The group plans on creating a boutique hotel at the site, but little progress has been made during the past few years.

Old St. George was damaged in a fire on Feb. 1, 2008. The blaze caused about $2 million in damages. Since then, CHCURC has been trying to secure funding from various sources to redevelop the building.

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<![CDATA[Vendors Sought for Fountain Square]]>

Tuesdays will be market day at downtown’s Fountain Square beginning in late spring and lasting until early fall. And to fill the market, the group that manages the plaza is accepting applications from interested vendors.

The Cincinnati City Center Development Corp. (3CDC) will operate the market for 21 weeks, from May 1 to Sept. 25. The midday, mini-market will be open from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.---

3CDC will allow three types of vendors on the square. They are vendors selling non-food or pre-packaged items such as flowers, drinks or candy; vendors selling basic food items such as breads, meats, cheeses or produce; and vendors selling ready-to-eat food items such as snacks and sandwiches.

The market is divided into three sessions — May 1-22, June 5-Aug. 28, and Sept. 4-25 — and vendors may apply for one, two or all three sessions.

Interested vendors should visit 3CDC’s website for details about the market, selection criteria and instructions on how to apply. Vendors must apply by 5 p.m. on March 23. All vendors who are selected will be notified by March 31.

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<![CDATA[COAST's Latest Apology?]]>

A series of contradictory tweets and blog comments posted by members of an anti-transit group has observers wondering of there is dissension in its ranks — or whether one member simply has anger management issues.

Ever since an initiative put on the Nov. 8 ballot by the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) was rejected by voters, someone with the group has vowed on various local blogs that it still would try to block Cincinnati’s streetcar project.---

Last month COAST and the NAACP’s local chapter mounted their second ballot initiative in two years to stop the project. Under the proposal, city officials would’ve been prohibited from spending money on anything related to preparing any type of passenger rail transit, including the streetcar system, through Dec. 31, 2020. Further, it would’ve restricted the city from accepting federal grants for such projects, along with entering into public-private partnerships or even accepting private investment for a passenger rail project within the city’s rights-of-way.

The measure failed, 52 percent to 48 percent.

Earlier this month the Obama administration awarded a $10.92 million transportation grant to the project. The cash means a scuttled connection from downtown to the riverfront will be restored. Construction is expected to begin
in the next few months.

The action prompted someone using COAST’s name to take to the Internet and allege the political and legal battles over the project weren’t over.

"We’re going to make sure this project sees delay after delay after delay until it is back down the toilet where it belongs," someone using the name “COAST” posted Dec. 14 on
the UrbanCincy blog.

The next day, in the same stream of comments, COAST posted, “Horrible waste of taxpayer money. We will see you guys in court soon.”

Although it’s unclear who wrote the comment, Mark Miller, the group’s treasurer, writes many of COAST’s blog comments and tweets. Miller ignited public outrage and apologized after he tweeted on Sept. 11, “3% of FDNY died 10 yrs ago by terrorism. Today Cincinnati lost 17.5% of fire companies by brownout to pay for a streetcar. Which is worse?”

So, crazy, over-the-top invective is nothing new for the group.

On Dec. 21, after a fire at a Westwood apartment building killed 2-year-old Tristen Sanders,
COAST tweeted, “2 year old dead in fire. City brown outs to blame; no doubt City Mgr will deny. Tragedy of misdirected funds continues.”

Kevin LeMaster, who operates the 
Building Cincinnati blog, checked with city officials and learned that the closest fire stations weren’t shut during the Westwood incident, making COAST’s tweet inaccurate.

During last fall’s campaign for Issue 48, COAST made multiple allegations on a near-daily basis of blaming the "browning out" of certain Fire Department companies on the streetcar project. It has made similar claims on the campaign trail. “Companies” is firefighter lingo for a ladder track, a pumper or a heavy rescue unit and the four people who work on each. During a brownout, those workers are transferred to other duties. City administrators have said the actions are needed to reduce the department's soaring overtime costs and help avoid a projected deficit for 2012 that could reach $33 million.

But the brownouts were unconnected to the streetcar project, city administrators said. The project is funded through state and federal grants, along with construction bonds from the city's Capital Improvements budget. The brownouts are needed to cut costs in the city's General Fund budget, which covers daily operations.

This week, after
CityBeat published its annual “Year in Review” article that mentioned the streetcar project’s progress, someone using the name “COAST” posted online, “Forget Detroit. We are the next Moscow. Fountain Square is now Red Square with Liberal Marxist Communists running amuck fleecing the taxpayers to pay for amusement park rides through the ghetto. The Mayor's Trolley Folly will never see the light of day.  We'll make sure of that Yups.”

“Yups,” apparently, refers to “yuppies.”

Less than 24 hours later, however, COAST posted the following comment, “We respect the outcome of the recent vote. We live in a democracy and the people have spoken. COAST wishes the City and its residents the best of luck as it builds the streetcar. While you won't see us turning shovels, we recognize what the people want and will get out of the way.”

We’re awaiting clarification from COAST on exactly what its plans are. If, in fact, members actually know.

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<![CDATA[Streetcar Gets Grant for Riverfront]]>

It will be headed to the riverfront, after all.

U.S. Transportation Ray LaHood will hold a conference call Thursday afternoon with media to announce that Cincinnati's planned streetcar system is getting a $10.92 million grant. The announcement is set for 12:15 p.m.---

The money will allow Cincinnati officials to build a loop to downtown's riverfront area during phase one of the project, which is expected to begin construction next year and open in late 2013. Segments to the riverfront and to the uptown area near the University of Cincinnati were initially included in phase one, but were dropped after the state of Ohio cancelled about $52 million in funding due to political pressure from Gov. John Kasich.

The latest funding is part of the federal Transportation Department's TIGER III Discretionary Grants Program. TIGER — or Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery — is designed to invest in road, rail, transit and port projects that promise to achieve “critical national objectives.”

“The TIGER program enables (the Transportation Department) to use a rigorous process to select projects with exceptional benefits, explore ways to deliver projects faster and save on construction costs, and make investments in our nation's infrastructure that make communities more livable and sustainable,” according to a federal website.

Prior to the grant, Cincinnati officials had allocated $99.5 million for the project, which will pay for the first phase. Of that amount, $25 million comes from an urban circulator grant awarded by the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA); $4 million comes from a congestion mitigation and air quality improvement grant by the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments; $6.5 million comes from Duke Energy; and the remaining $64 million will come from construction bonds issued by the city.

Sources with Congressional offices have confirmed the news, which also has been reported by The Enquirer and The Business Courier. The grant's advance notice was published Monday on a federal website.

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<![CDATA[Report: OTR Tops U.S. in Inequality]]>

A new Census Bureau report reveals that from 2005 to 2009, a segment of Over-the-Rhine had the highest income inequality of more than 61,000 communities nationwide.

The segment — known as Census Tract No. 17 — is the northeast quadrant of Over-the-Rhine. The findings were featured in an article Tuesday by McClatchy Newspapers, which attributes the disparity in the tract partially to gentrification and the influx of young professionals into the predominantly low-income neighborhood.---

Here's a portion of the article:

(At the census-tract level,) income inequality as measured by the Census Bureau's American Community Survey refers only to the range of household incomes in a small geographic area. The wider the gap between high and low earners, the higher the level of income inequality for that tract.

So while two-thirds of Tract 17's 321 households earn less than $10,000 a year and are mired in poverty, a push to gentrify the area has brought a wider mix of incomes to the small neighborhood just outside the downtown business district. Nearly 6 percent of residents there now earn between $25,000 and $49,999. Three percent make $100,000 to $149,999, and yet another 3 percent take in $200,000 or more.

The rare diversity of earnings in Tract 17 caused it to have the nation's most unequal neighborhood income distribution, according to the Census Bureau. And oddly enough, city leaders are striving for that kind of income integration throughout Over-the-Rhine.


The article examines the efforts of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) since 2004 to redevelop the neighborhood. It quotes Stephen Leeper, 3CDC's president and CEO, as well as representatives of St. Francis Seraph Ministries and the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless on the redevelopment's impact on existing Over-the-Rhine residents.

Statistics show that 573 of the nearly 900 apartments and houses in Tract 17 are vacant, and 60 percent of tract residents received food stamps in the last year.

The report states that the most income-mixed tracts nationwide are in neighborhoods with older housing. The majority of units in Over-the-Rhine's Tract 17 are at least 70 years old or older.

After the Over-the-Rhine tract, other areas with the most income inequality are located in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Kileen, Texas; Austin, Texas; and Henderson, Texas.

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

Occupy Cincinnati protesters have asked a judge to throw all charges against them, arguing that the park rules are unconstitutional which means their punishments shouldn't exist. The cases are expected to be delayed until the constitutional argument is figured out.

Two county commissioners say they want to help the county's Job and Family Services agency after an Enquirer analysis detailed massive funding, technology and staffing shortages that might have contributed to the deaths of three toddlers during the last 10 months. Republican Greg Hartmann and Democrat Todd Portune have suggested the agency use money from a reserve set aside for an expected bookkeeping penalty while they vote on a budget that will stay the same as last year.---

Interstate-471 is slated for a complete overhaul, as long as COAST doesn't try to block its $40-$50 million price tag (right?!?). Northern Kentucky residents have requested noise-reducing pavement after being surprised at how loud thousands of cars driving down an eight-lane highway can be.

State Republicans believe they're close to appeasing black Democrats enough to pass the new congressional map, which will still have 12 solidly Republican districts.

Hermain Cain apparently has remembered allegations of sexual harassment after initially denying they ever occurred. Cain yesterday told an audience that he was unaware of any financial deal given to his accuser and then told Fox News that it was two to three months salary.

"All day today, as I've been getting beat up, I've been trying to recall what some of those things were and haven't been able to recall a lot of them because that's why they got dismissed," he said, referring to the questions thrown his way after Politico broke the story Sunday.

"But here's the one incident that I recall as the day has gone on. She was in my office one day, and I made a gesture saying, Oh -- and I was standing close to her. And I made a gesture, You're the same height as my wife, and brought my hand -- didn't touch her -- up to my chin and said, You're the same height of my wife because my wife comes up to my chin, my wife of 43 years," he told Van Susteren.

Yoga will make your back feel better.

Uh oh, Apple's iPhone 4S battery is dying too quickly. At least schools will have more iPads than computers in five years.

A new study details how soft drink makers market their fizzy corn syrup to kids, with blacks and Hispanics the major targets.

Here's a video of a Nashville Scene reporter being arrested for trespassing and resisting arrest while attempting to explain to police that he's a member of the media.

What you will hear, very clearly, is a trooper telling another officer to book Meador for resisting arrest. You will also hear, very clearly, audio evidence of Meador's contention: that he was simply doing his job as a reporter and tried to get off the plaza to comply with the law — but the troopers wouldn't let him off that easy.

What you will not hear, in any form or fashion, is the slightest mention of public intoxication — the specious charge against Meador the THP has broadcast to the world. If that charge was made up later to discredit Meador — or even more appallingly, to divert attention from what a Metro Night Court judge last night told officers was a blatantly unconstitutional overstepping of government and police authority — nobody who cares about their First Amendment freedoms should sleep in Tennessee tonight.

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

Streetcar proponents have spent considerably more on their campaign than the anti-streetcar people, probably because Issue 48 is so wide-reaching it has brought out people concerned with things way more important than the streetcar such as regional planning, commuter rail and making Cincinnati not look like it totally sucks.

Also being outspent are the SB 5 supporters, who have seen support decline dramatically in recent weeks as people look around their neighborhoods and see a bunch of regular people whose rights would be taken away. And Building a Better Ohio does unethical things like this, which makes people think they are meanies.

Here's a blog about City Council candidate Chris Smitherman arguing against all the legal experts who say Issue 48 will block all rail construction through 2020. ---

Members of Occupy Cincinnati held a candlelight vigil last night at Piatt Park to honor a Marine injured in the recent clash between police and protesters in Oakland. Sixteen people reportedly showed up at Piatt Park at 10 p.m. and were granted by police a few minutes to speak on Scott Olsen's behalf. According to The Enquirer, the group then marched around the park and to the justice center.

The Ohio Supreme Court said “sorry Democrats, y'all screwed” today in ruling that it will not restart the 90-day clock for Dems to collect the 231,000 signatures needed to put the crazy new Republican Congressional map in front of voters.

And if that wasn't bad enough, Consumer Reports says a mislabeled seafood scam has affected millions of people.

The world's largest independent product-testing organization Friday will reveal that 22% of the seafood it tested at supermarkets, restaurants, fish markets, gourmet stores and big-box stores in three states was either mislabeled, incompletely labeled or misidentified by store or restaurant employees.

"Consumers are getting ripped off when they buy fish," says Kim Kleman, editor-in-chief of Consumer Reports.

This is no small matter. Americans spent $80.2 billion on seafood last year, up $5 billion from 2009. Mislabeling can be a serious health issue. Some consumers have allergies to specific types of fish, and pregnant women can end up eating fish they shouldn't — with high concentrations of mercury. Others trying to purchase more sustainable fish are being sold cheaper, unsustainable species.

Apparently Rick Perry might not take part in all of the Republican debates. Wonder why.

Pundits are wondering how Herman Cain continues to gain support.

Chevron profit doubles as oil prices rise” -- Nice work, Chevron!

Charlie Sheen's new sitcom Anger Management has been picked up by FX and will air in 2012.

The St. Louis Cardinals won a crazy Game 6 over the Texas Rangers to force a deciding Game 7 tonight.

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<![CDATA[Sheriff Urges 'No' Vote on Issue 48]]>

The person who often ranks in polls as the most popular politician in Hamilton County is breaking with his Republican colleagues and is appearing in a new radio commercial urging a “no” vote on Issue 48.

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. asks residents to oppose the anti-streetcar initiative that was placed on the ballot by the NAACP's local chapter and the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST). The commercial will begin airing Wednesday during the morning drive time period on WLW (700 AM) and WKRC (550 AM), two stations with predominately conservative, Republican audiences.---

In the ad, the sheriff says, “This is Sheriff Simon Leis. I am here to urge you to vote 'no' on Issue 48. This anti-growth charter amendment would drive away investment and make the city's deficit worse. Issue 48 could lead to layoffs and service cuts that hurt every neighborhood in Cincinnati. It's a bad deal any way you look at it. If you want to see a safer, stronger Cincinnati, join me and vote 'no' on Issue 48."
Leis' commercial puts him at odds with the Hamilton County Republican Party, which has made opposing Cincinnati's long-planned streetcar project one of its central issues in the 2011 elections.

All of the GOP candidates for City Council — Leslie Ghiz, Wayne Lippert, Catherine Smith Mills, Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn — oppose the streetcar and have urged a “yes” vote.

Leis, 77, announced in September that he wouldn't seek another term as sheriff when his current term ends next year, and planned to retire after a 40-year career in various elective offices. Leis was first appointed sheriff in 1987 and was elected to the office the following year. Since then, he's been reelected sheriff five times.

Also, Leis served as county prosecutor from 1971 until 1982, when he was elected as a Common Pleas Court judge.

If approved by voters, Issue 48 would impose an outright ban on spending any money on “a system of passenger vehicles operated on rails constructed primarily in existing public rights of way” until Dec. 31, 2020. The ban would affect any source of funding regardless if it came from local, state or federal governments or even if it was privately financed.

Many legal experts said the broad wording wouldn't only affect the streetcar project but also any type of passenger rail project including commuter rail lines along the Eastern Corridor or to places like Sharonville and West Chester, along with possible light rail service to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron.

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<![CDATA[Queen City Bike Asks Cyclists to Complete Survey ]]>

The city of Cincinnati is planning to restripe a section of Martin Luther King Drive between Reading Road and Victory Parkway and would like input from cyclists who commute into Clifton and Walnut Hills. Queen City Bike today sent out an email asking anyone who regularly uses the route to fill out an online survey to help planners determine which infrastructure improvements to make.---

 

The survey can be found here. It will be up for three weeks, ending July 18. Paper copies of the survey will also be available on MLK and Lincoln Avenue bridges over I-71.

The 2010 Cincinnati Bicycle Transportation Plan lists Evaluation as one of the Five E's it follows when working to improve cycling conditions. The concept is used by the League of American Bicyclists in order to judge bike friendliness among cities and communities (the Evaluation “E” actually stands for “Evaluation and Planning” at LAB). The other E's are Engineering, Education, Encouragement and Enforcement.

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<![CDATA[Attention Cycling Enthusiasts]]>

Queen City Bike today sent out an email asking for help in convincing St. Bernard Service Director Phil Stegman why including a climbing lane on Mitchell Avenue between Vine Street and Reading Road is important to the area's cycling infrastructure. According to QCB, St. Bernard's engineers prefer to keep 10 feet of space for parking rather than use 8 feet for parking and include the bike lane. The city of Cincinnati, which owns half the road, needs St. Bernard to sign off on the infrastructure improvement, according to QCB.---

Climbing lanes contribute to safer cycling conditions by marking parts of roads where cyclists will naturally be traveling at slower speeds, helping to provide awareness for cars that will pass cyclists going up hills.

Queen City Bike included a draft email to be personalized and sent to Stegman, along with St. Bernard Mayor William Burkhardt; St. Bernard Councilperson John Estep, Chair, Transportation Committee, City of St. Bernard; Councilperson Roxanne Qualls, Chair, Transportation Subcommittee, City of Cincinnati; and Queen City Bike President Frank Henson.

The following is the draft provided by QCB:

DRAFT E-MAIL MESSAGE FOR YOUR PERSONALIZATION:

E-MAIL ADDRESSES (copy into your e-mail program):

TO: service@cityofstbernard.org

CC:

bburkhardt@cityofstbernard.org;

jestep@cityofstbernard.org;

roxanne.qualls@cincinnati-oh.gov;

queencitybike09@gmail.com

TEXT TO MODIFY:

Phil Stegman, Director, Service Department, City of St. Bernard

Dear Mr Stegman,

I am writing to urge you to work with the City of Cincinnati to add a bike lane to Mitchell Avenue by allowing 8 feet for parking rather than 10 feet on the St. Bernard side of the street.

This minor change would allow a bike lane to be added to the uphill side of Mitchell, making it possible for bicyclists to use this important street to get to and from North Avondale, Hyde Park and points east from St. Bernard, and to Cincinnati neighborhoods to the west and north. Changes have already been made or are being planned for Dana Avenue and Spring Grove, leaving Mitchell as a critical gap in the regional bicycle street network.

A bike lane would also make St. Bernard a more desirable place to live for Xavier University students who want to live in a green, healthy community that encourages and supports active lifestyles. Bicycles on the street are a sign of a desirable place to live for young people, and can be an important part of revitalizing neighborhood business districts. Clifton, Northside, and O'Bryonville are all areas where bike lanes are making a real difference.

Can you confirm that you will work with the City of Cincinnati to allow a bike lane to be added to Mitchell Avenue this year?

Sincerely,


Gary Wright

Over the Rhine, Cincinnati

Queen City Bike Board Member


CC:

Mayor William Burkhardt, City of St. Bernard

Councilperson John Estep, Chair, Transportation Committee, City of St. Bernard

Councilperson Roxanne Qualls, Chair, Transportation Subcommittee, City of Cincinnati

Frank Henson, President, Queen City Bike

 

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<![CDATA[Still Separated by Race]]>

In at least one important aspect, Greater Cincinnati hasn't changed much during the past decade.

Data from the 2010 U.S. Census shows the region is the eighth-most racially segregated metropolitan area in the nation, the same ranking it held after the 2000 count.---

Greater Cincinnati's “dissimilarity rating” is 69.42 percent, according to the most recent figures. It was 74.2 percent in the 2000 Census, which indicates a minor improvement.

The rating is a demographic measurement of the evenness with which two racial or ethnic groups are distributed across the component geographic areas that make up a larger region. Such indices are often used to measure inequality by statisticians. The higher the rating, the more unequal the distribution.

Under the current figures, it means more than two out of every three African-Americans would have to move to predominantly white neighborhoods to create a more balanced mixture. In 2000, it was nearly three out of every four blacks.

Milwaukee ranks as the most racially-segregated city in the United States, the data indicates, with an 81.52 percent rating.

The Queen City falls between Philadelphia at No. 9 (68.41 percent) and St. Louis at No. 7 (72.3 percent). Cleveland ranks as No. 5 (74.14 percent).

Detroit, which was the most racially-segregated city in 2000 (No. 1, with an 84 percent rating) is now No. 4, with a 75.25 percent rating.

Salon.com did an overview of the 10 most segregated cities, and interviewed University of Cincinnati historian David Stradling, author of Cincinnati: From River City to Highway Metropolis.

"There are so many places where whites will try to flee the problems of the city, including the problem of diversity," Stradling told Salon. "Obviously the No. 1 cause of this is, of course, simply racism. There's racism that works through the white family who makes the decision to either defend against the arrival of black families or simply flee and give up the defense. Either of those strategies doesn't help as far as desegregation is concerned."

Stradling sees the problem getting worse under Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

"Right now, we've got a pretty reactionary governor," he said. "And he's not interested in the urban core. There are a lot of places growing in Ohio, but the problem is how they grow at the expense of other parts of Ohio. I see years of expanded highway spending, and not spending in the urban core."

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<![CDATA[Streetcar Tours End Today]]> A sample of the streetcars that will be running on Cincinnati streets soon has been parked at Fountain Square for tours, but this afternoon is your last chance to check it out. The company that built it, United Streetcar of Clackamas, Ore., will be packing it up tonight and shipping it off for similar sightseeing visits to Salt Lake City and Fort Worth, Tex.---

John Schneider, Cincinnati's preeminent public transit guru, reports that visitors' favorable comments have outrun negative comments 9-to-1. Of course, most people who have stopped by are streetcar enthusiasts and public transportation users interested in seeing the new technology firsthand. Then there have been the sporadic anti-tax and anti-everything protesters who can't get over the fact that the federal government and Cincinnati City Council approved funding for the streetcar project.

[COAST's recent anti-streetcar press conference is pictured above; photo by Ronnie Solerno.]

United Streetcar is the only U.S. manufacturer of modern streetcars and is a subsidiary of Oregon Iron Works, a major bridge, aerospace and marine manufacturer and a U.S. defense contractor. United is currently building new streetcars for Portland, Ore.'s successful transit system and for Tucson, Ariz.'s new streetcar line.

Schneider says that the streetcar that's been on display here will eventually be put into service in Portland once it tours Salt Lake City and Fort Worth. Both of those cities were approved for federal funding for new streetcar lines around the same time Cincinnati was.

Cincinnati officials will be choosing a manufacturer soon for its streetcar vehicles, and Schneider says he imagines United Streetcar would be in the running.

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<![CDATA[Westwood Group Strongarms Summit]]>

When CityBeat heard the Westwood Civic Association was planning a so-called “West Side Summit,” the group's leader responded that he was seeking input from various West Side neighborhood groups and that they could help set the agenda.

A recent e-mail exchange between WCA President John Sess and a Community Press reporter, however, in which Sess attempts to get publicity for the event, paints a somewhat different picture about its purpose.---

WCA sent invitations to the Oct. 5 summit via e-mail to organizations and individuals in East Price Hill, Lower Price Hill, Mount Airy, Northside, Riverside, Sayler Park, Sedamsville, South Cumminsville, South Fairmount and West Price Hill, among others.

Although the invitation lists several topics that will be discussed, Sess told CityBeat earlier this month that the summit's agenda would evolve as topics are suggested by invitees. But an e-mail exchange with reporter Shauna Steigerwald, who works for The Enquirer's chain of small neighborhood newspapers, appears to conflict with Sess' statement.

When Steigerwald asks for information about the summit, Sess replies in a Sept. 28 e-mail, “This is an attempt to meet with the neighborhoods services (sic) by District Three and those adjoining District Three. We need to define our neighborhood boundaries, get in sync with the enforcement of the Chronic Nuisance Ordinance and discuss crime trends and how to address them.”

When Steigerwald writes back to ask if the event is free, Sess replies on Sept. 29, “The idea is to educate the neighborhoods on Westwood's efforts in enforcing the Chronic Nuisance Ordinance, which penalizes irresponsible landlords of multi-unit apartment buildings. We also plan to discuss neighborhood boundaries, crime trends and other issues brought forth by the attendees.”

Whether any time would be left for topics suggested by other neighborhood groups during the two-hour summit is anyone's guess, but the planning isn't as egalitarian as first presented.

Also, there are indications the supposedly nonpartisan Civic Association is catering to Republican candidates.

The original invitation read, “This is not meant to be a candidate's forum since WCA will host a candidates forum on Oct. 7th at the Town Hall. However, candidates will be invited to attend and hear our concerns.”

Sess' e-mail reminder to attendees, though, includes Mike Robison, the GOP candidate for the Ohio House 31st District seat, and Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Monzel, the Republican candidate for the Hamilton County Commission.

It does not include incumbent State Rep. Denise Driehaus or County Commission candidate Jim Tarbell, two Democrats.

Also on Sess' e-mail list is Cincinnati Police Capt. Russ Neville.

The bottom line: The summit's agenda, date, time and location are all dictated by a single neighborhood, and two political candidates were invited but their opponents weren't. Autocratic, much?

In summer 2009, some Civic Association leaders pushed the idea that Westwood should secede from Cincinnati and become its own city, because they felt city officials were neglecting its needs. The empty threat got a lot of media attention — mostly from The Enquirer and Channel 12 — but the idea wasn't vetted by residents and went nowhere.

The West Side Summit will be held from 7-9 p.m. Oct. 5 at Westwood Town Hall, 3017 Harrison Ave.

For more information, Sess can be reached at sessman55@gmail.com.

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<![CDATA[West Side Summit Planned]]>

A summit of neighborhood leaders from Cincinnati's West Side is being planned by the Westwood Civic Association (WCA).

The association is inviting all West Side neighborhood groups, not just those from its home base of Westwood, and says it's seeking input on topics that will be discussed.---

WCA sent invitations via e-mail to organizations and individuals in East Price Hill, Lower Price Hill, Mount Airy, Northside, Riverside, Sayler Park, Sedamsville, South Cumminsville, South Fairmount and West Price Hill, among others.

The invitation reads, “The purpose of this gathering of West Side leadership is to discuss the direction the city of Cincinnati is going with respect to city provided services, the budget, chronic nuisance properties, neighborhood boundaries, crime and safety, blight abatement, NSP funding, and other topics of interest to the West Side.

“This is not meant to be a candidate's forum since WCA will host a candidates forum on Oct. 7th at the Town Hall,” it continues. “However, candidates will be invited to attend and hear our concerns.”

WCA President John Sess told CityBeat that the summit's agenda will evolve as topics are suggested by invitees.

Some neighborhood groups elsewhere in the city have had often heated debates about neighborhood boundaries. The disputes include one between Hyde Park and Oakley, and between Covedale and West Price Hill.

The summit is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 5 at Westwood Town Hall, 3017 Harrison Ave.

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