CityBeat Blogs - News http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-34-36.html <![CDATA[Bill to Defund Planned Parenthood Heads to Kasich's Desk]]> A bill that would strip Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio of all government funding is on its way to Gov. John Kasich's desk. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines. 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• I managed to file my taxes yesterday more than two months before the deadline. It seemed more interesting than watching the Super Bowl, and they were also much easier to figure out than when I lived outside the country. Apparently, more than 4,000 American citizens would agree with me. Last year, 4,279 people, a record high, ditched their U.S. citizen and permanent citizenship statuses. The trend has taken off in recent year, caused by complicated U.S. tax laws for American citizens and permanent residents living abroad. Unlike most of the world, the U.S. taxes Americans on their income regardless of where their permanent home is, making paperwork super complex and difficult, and for many, not worth holding their citizenship anymore, I guess.]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Kentucky Official Disputes DeWine Claim on Fetal Tissue]]> Following controversy around videos released by anti-abortion groups purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials in Texas discussing the sale of fetal tissue to a fake medical company, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine launched an investigation of Ohio Planned Parenthood late last year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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<![CDATA[Panelists and Community Discuss 2001's Ongoing Legacy]]>

Xavier University held a packed town hall discussion last night on the state of Cincinnati 15 years after the police shooting of unarmed black citizen Timothy Thomas and the civil unrest that shook the city afterward.

Thomas was the 15th black Cincinnatian killed by police during the previous three years, and frustrations in the black community over those killings, and deep economic and social isolation, bubbled over in Over-the-Rhine and other neighborhoods around the city.

Even after a decade and a half, the town hall was as timely as ever: Last summer saw the death of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose at the hands of University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, and events in the past year and a half across the country have brought the issue of racially charged police violence front and center. As evidenced by the sometimes-contentious discussion last night, frustration remains even as Cincinnati has enacted some meaningful reforms in its approach to policing.

Charlie Luken, who was Cincinnati's mayor in 2001, gave introductory remarks to the crowd. Luken admitted that officials at the time were slow to pay attention to the signs of unrest.

“Our community, including me, was slow to grasp the depths of legitimate complaint," he said.

Luken said he doesn't condone violence but also called the unrest in 2001 “part of the American tradition.” He said activism during the unrest led to positive change, a significant shift from statements he made in 2001 when he remarked that “some of them seem to be out here just for the fun of it.”

Activist Iris Roley of the Black United Front argued that the historic Collaborative Agreement that came after the unrest by federal order was a positive step, but that much more work is still needed. For example, Roley advocated for expanded community presence for the Citizen’s Complaint Authority, which handles citizens’ complaints against officers under the city’s police reforms. In 2014, the last year for which data was available, complaints about discrimination rose by 100 percent from the year prior. Complaints about excessive use of force rose 30 percent and firearm discharge allegations rose by 60 percent. Only improper pointing of a firearm complaints went down, by 67 percent. Overall, allegations rose 39 percent over 2013, though those percentages are somewhat skewed by the small numbers involved. Of the 320 complaints filed with the authority, 67 were investigated.

"Children want to know what the people did for them," Roley said of Collaborative Agreement, which she says is still very relevant now. Still, “policing is so huge in the black community. I wish we could think about other things," Roley said, and, "it's more stressful now" because much of police oversight work is done at the city level, and less is in the hands of activists.

Rev. Damon Lynch III, a pastor in OTR in 2001 whose church has since moved to Roselawn, said police issues are just a part of the city’s race problem and that much of the rest of the racial disparity, including huge socioeconomic gaps, haven’t shifted in Cincinnati since 2001.

"Childhood poverty won't start the next civil unrest," he said, suggesting that the economic issues that set up those conditions are the real issue. 

Civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein echoed Roley in his analysis that the Collaborative Agreement was a good step and that strategies like problem-oriented policing are better than previous law enforcement techniques even if larger systemic problems keep racial disparities in place.

“The original ask (in 2001) from my clients was addressing economic inequity,” Gerhardstein said of the fight the Black United Front and other activists waged in court over police reforms following Thomas’ death. “You can't sue capitalism. That's a problem."

Cincinnati Police Department District 4 Capt. Maris Harold, meanwhile, maintained that policing in Cincinnati has gotten remarkably better in the last two decades, touting what she calls the data-driven “science of policing,” which she says can result in fewer arrests by targeting the few violent criminals in an area.

“Policing is a paramilitary organization," and thus, all about strategy, Harold said. That strategy before 2001 was, "zero tolerance, arrest everything that moves," Harold said, but, “unless you're an irrational person, you have to realize the strategy wasn't working." She says police have since realized a small number of people commit violence and that to be effective they must narrow in on those individuals.

Black Lives Matter activist Brian Taylor, however, argued that a shift in police tactics can’t mask deeper problems and that the most powerful way to address those inequalities is through street-level activism. If policing is paramilitary, Taylor asked, “Who is the enemy? Racism is institutional, bound to the system on a molecular level." Taylor brought up the fact that officers who corroborated Tensing’s story around the shooting of DuBose this summer are still on the force and what he says are lingering questions around the CPD shooting of Quandavier Hicks last summer in Northside.

Audience members had loads of questions surrounding the deeper issues that sparked the unrest in 2001, including socioeconomic inequalities and lack of jobs and educational opportunities in the black community.

Many audience members also decried what they see as the inequitable development of Over-the-Rhine, which came about during the years following the unrest when then-mayor Luken helped put together the Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation. 3CDC and other developers have subsequently spent nearly $1 billion redeveloping OTR, in the process changing parts of the neighborhood from a low-income community into a more upscale enclave.

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

Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are today's headlines. 

Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac unveiled a new crime reduction strategy that would target certain high crime locations in the city. Isaac presented the plan called Place-based Investigations of Violent Offender Territories, or PIVOT, Monday to the City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee. The idea is law enforcement will start to tackle super specific places and try to change the culture at that location. The "place-based" strategy means targeting these locations is as important as targeting people as other new offenders will just take the place of those who are removed from a particular "hot" location. The plan detailed 20 spots across the city in neighborhoods including Avondale, Over-The-Rhine, Walnut Hill and East Price Hill. Many locations are are businesses that are known centers for criminal activity. Isaac the businesses targeted will not necessarily face closure--unless they are non-compliant with police. 

• City Council is set to vote on an ordinance today that would help protect workers from wage theft. The ordinance, which was written by Vice Mayor David Mann, would allow the city to cut tax-agreements and force repayment of financial incentives if a business is found guilty of withholding worker wages. Migrant workers are often victims of this because of language barriers and possible undocumented immigration statuses.

• The University of Cincinnati is closer today to moving its law school to riverfront development The Banks. The finance committee of the university's board of trustees has voted to approve that move, which still needs full board approval. Should the board approve the proposal, the university will need to raise funds for a new facility and select a site at The Banks. Discussions about moving the law school to the riverfront have been circulating around the university for at least four years and have  taken on more serious potential in the last few months.

• Xavier University tonight will host a town hall discussion on the state of Cincinnati 15 years after the city's civil unrest in Over-the-Rhine and other neighborhoods over the police shooting death of unarmed Timothy Thomas. Thomas was the 15th black citizen shot by Cincinnati police over the course of just a few years, and his death uncovered deep inequities in the city's policing and beyond. While national media has celebrated Cincinnati's historic collaborative agreement, which ushered in big changes to CPD, deep socioeconomic inequalities remain here and police shootings of unarmed black citizens remain a huge issue in other Ohio cities and nationwide. Tonight's discussion will include police reform activist Iris Roley, Rev. Damon Lynch III, Cincinnati Black Lives Matter activist Brian Taylor, civil rights lawyer Al Gerhardstein, and CPD Capt. Maris Harold. It starts at 7 p.m. at Xavier's Cintas Center.

• As Gov. John Kasich hangs out in New Hampshire trying to play nice with his fellow GOP presidential nominees, the Washington Post published a story on his attempted aggressive takeover of Youngstown City Schools. Last summer, Kasich's administration introduced a last minute amendment to an education bill that would put a state-appointed highly powerful executive in charge of the low income-area school district and would offer a cash-bonus charter, private, parochial or suburban schools that took Youngstown students. Kasich's crew made sure the bill and the 66-page amendment sailed through the legislature within a matter of days after they had worked with non-elected Youngstown officials for months to carefully craft the plan. The legislation was only halted by a legal challenge that its speedy passage violated legislative rules. The matter is still pending.  

• Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz pulled in the state's evangelical Christian voters out to help him beat business tycoon Donald Trump in the Iowa caucuses Monday night. While the two Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, finished neck and neck. The Associated Press said that race was too close to call. This has probably left Clinton must be shaking in her suit as she heads off to New Hampshire--where Sanders' has the advantage of winning his neighboring state.

Story tips go to nkrebs@citybeat.com.

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<![CDATA[Council Set to Pass Anti-Wage-Theft Ordinance]]>

Employers who don’t pay their workers might have new penalties to worry about after Cincinnati City Council’s Feb. 3 meeting.

Council is poised to approve a new ordinance that would allow the city to rescind tax agreements and force repayment of incentives such as grants if a company is caught committing wage theft. The city could also bar a company caught not paying its workers from receiving future city contracts.

Council’s Budget and Finance Committee passed the ordinance 6-0 Feb. 1. Though it doesn’t create any new laws, the ordinance gives the city more options for enforcing existing state and federal anti-wage theft legislation.

Vice Mayor David Mann authored the ordinance, which came about through a push from the Over-the-Rhine based Interfaith Workers Center. Brennan Grayson, director of the IWC, says the ordinance is modeled on similar measures taken in other major cities.

A number of wage theft cases have been documented in Cincinnati and across Ohio. Between 2005 and 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor seized more than $6.5 million in wages construction companies shorted 5,500 Ohio workers laboring on public projects.

This summer, CityBeat wrote about immigrants who were initially shorted wages for their construction work on a fraternity near the University of Cincinnati. The workers were eventually able to gain back thousands of dollars in unpaid wages with the help of IWC.

Migrant workers are especially vulnerable to wage theft, often due to vulnerabilities that arise from limited language proficiency or, sometimes, their undocumented status.

“It’s no secret that people who don’t speak English are viewed as not being in a position to complain,” Councilman Wendell Young said at the budget and finance meeting.
Young would like to see additional measures that involve the city’s newly created Office of Economic Inclusion in wage theft-related issues.

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<![CDATA[Judge: Third Party to Take Control of Neglected Apartment Buildings ]]>

Tenants of several Cincinnati low-income apartment complexes will see relief from the starkly sub-standard conditions found in those buildings after a court decision today.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Beth Meyer ruled that five buildings with more than 600 units of affordable housing owned by New Jersey-based PF Holdings company will be placed in receivership with a third party, effectively keeping it from collecting rent from tenants and the more than $5 millions it gets annually from the Department of Housing and Urban Development until repairs are made. Those funds and repairs will be handled by court-appointed receiver Milhaus Management, a property management company requested by U.S. Bank Wilmington Trust, which holds mortgages on the properties. 

CityBeat in March reported on conditions at The Alms Apartments in Walnut Hills, one of the properties placed in receivership. Tenants in that building suffered from lack of heating, plumbing problems, insect infestations and other substandard conditions. In November, the roof collapsed on another PF Holdings-owned building, the Burton in Avondale, due to heavy rains and lack of maintenance. All told, that building had more than 1,800 municipal code violations, city inspections late last year found. The total cost of fixing the buildings is more than $3 million, according to court filings.

Tenants at those buildings and others owned by the company organized to demand better conditions in their buildings with the help of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless and the Society for Legal Aid of Greater Cincinnati. Advocates and tenants say the company "willfully" hid conditions in the buildings and failed to do basic maintenance. They hailed today's decision as a step in the right direction.

"Finally, after a year of fighting, residents should start to see improvements soon," the Homeless Coalition said in a statement. "We still have a ways to go and a lot of work to do to ensure these buildings become what they should have always been, but today we took a major step forward at saving these invaluable affordable homes."

Trouble at the PF Holdings properties has come as the Greater Cincinnati area and many other areas around country face historic shortages of affordable housing. Federal guidelines say housing should cost no more than 30 percent of a household’s monthly income. However, 11 million people in the U.S. pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing, and that’s expected to swell in the coming years as rental markets across the country continue to heat up.

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

Good morning all. With the Iowa caucuses today, it seems like a good time to talk politics, and we’ve got a bunch of local political stories to touch on. Let’s get to it.

Cincinnati City Councilman and U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld is running neck and neck in with an opponent in the upcoming March Democratic primary, according to a new poll, but it’s not Ted Strickland. In a recent survey paid for by the Ohio Democratic Party, about 10 percent of 1,138 Ohio Democrats said they would vote for Price Hill resident Kelli Prather, an relatively unknown candidate who has never held elected office before. That’s the same proportion of support that Sittenfeld received in the poll. Strickland received 61 percent of the vote in the poll.

Sittenfeld’s campaign has shrugged off that poll, saying it’s biased and designed by the Democratic Party to support Strickland — who the party has endorsed — in the primary. Sittenfeld has raised a good deal of money from some notable donors, but has yet to catalyze much needed statewide recognition. Prather, meanwhile, has received little news coverage or other attention. She’s an occupational therapist whose harrowing experience as a victim of gun violence in 2004, when her husband shot her, inspired her to run for office, she says. Sittenfeld and Prather will debate in Cleveland Feb. 22. Strickland has declined to attend that event.

• More drama within the Democratic Party: A candidate to replace outgoing State Rep. Denise Driehaus in Ohio House District 31 says the local party is sidelining him over a research paper he wrote in 2009 while he was a student at Yale University. Candidate Ben Lindy says Hamilton County Democrats might take away his party rights — access to voter files and mailing information, lower postage rates and other benefits of being part of the Democratic Party — because the paper is now being used in anti-union arguments in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. That paper was published by Yale Law Journal in 2011 and is currently being used by anti-union groups in a case that could seriously undermine organized labor. Lindy says that’s not fair. 

Hamilton County Democrat head Tim Burke has said  he doesn’t want to totally marginalize Lindy but that the content of that paper is “bothersome.” In the research, Lindy found that public schools in New Mexico with mandatory union membership had higher SAT scores, but also lower graduation rates, than schools where collective bargaining arrangements weren’t mandatory. Lindy says in the paper that the results suggest collective bargaining arrangements for teachers actually hurt low-income students. He’s stuck by that particular research, but says that overall he supports unions and opposes efforts to restrict union dues collection in the current Supreme Court case. But he also points to other Democrats who have beliefs outside the party, such as those who are pro-life, and says he doesn’t deserve to be drummed out of the party for his position.

• Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman will step down from his job as county government’s top appointed official in September, he told county commissioners Friday. Sigman has served in the role — in which he helps set county budgets and oversees economic development plans — since 2011. He’s recently had a rocky time in the position, however, having been removed from oversight of riverfront development The Banks by county commissioners after he made statements suggesting that the county should consider working with another developer. Initially, commissioners considered firing him over those statements.

• Here’s a break from politics for a business story: Will local giant corporation Procter & Gamble split up? There’s a buzz going around financial analysts and others in the business world that it could, or should, happen as the company sees slow sales growth. It might be too large to grow any more, some experts say, and should consider splitting the company up. While the company has made some progress under new CEO David Taylor, lack of major progress could cause stockholders to push for the split-up, something that has happened at more than 300 other large companies in the last five years. Proponents of that course of action at P&G say it would allow the resulting companies to better focus on particular sectors of P&G’s business. However, others say the company’s sales problem exists across all its various enterprises and wouldn’t be solved by breaking them up. Already, P&G has sold off 100 smaller brands that were not as successful as its core products.

• And now, back to politics. Two political action committees supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich as he vies for the GOP presidential nomination saw a significant slowdown in fundraising in the second half of last year, recently released financial disclosures show. Super PACs New Day for America and New Day Independent Media Committee, both of which were formed to tout Kasich’s bid, saw about $6 million in contributions from July to December last year. That’s little more than half the $11.7 million those PACs took in in the first half of the year. Much of that money came from big donors with ties to large corporations.

Under campaign finance rules, Super PACs have no contribution limits but cannot coordinate directly with candidates’ campaigns. Kasich’s fundraising has trailed other candidates in the heated primary race. Similar super PACs for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio raised  $30 million last year, for instance. The PACs supporting Kasich have seen an uptick in fundraising, however, in the last couple weeks, as primary season starts in earnest. Kasich hopes some of that support pays off in Iowa tonight, where he’s trailing far-right candidates like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump in polls of Iowa’s staunchly conservative caucus-goers.

That’s it for me. Enjoy this warm weather while it lasts, eh?

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

Hey hey all! Here’s what’s going on around town today.


The University of Cincinnati is hosting a two-day national conference on race and policing starting today. The conference comes in the wake of the July 19 police shooting of Samuel DuBose by UC police officer Ray Tensing. DuBose was unarmed when Tensing stopped him for a missing front license plate. Tensing ended up shooting DuBose and has been indicted on murder charges for his death. The conference will feature panels and talks by national experts on policing and race issues as well as talks by Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac, former Cincinnati City Manager Valerie Lemme and others. Sessions on police profiling, challenges to trusting law enforcement, gun policy and other issues will also be offered. A UC student group called UC Students Against Injustice, meanwhile, has planned a protest of the event, calling it a “PR stunt” in light of what they say are failures by the university to make substantive changes following DuBose’s death.

 

• One of the region’s most iconic and beloved museums had a banner year in 2015. The Cincinnati Museum Center, housed in historic Union Terminal, had its second-busiest year since it opened in 1990, attracting nearly 1.5 million visitors last year. And it saved the best for last: It also had its single busiest month in December, when 224,000 people streamed through its doors. Museum officials credit popular temporary exhibits like the Lego-themed “The Art of the Brick” and “Mummies of the World” — along with the center’s permanent exhibits — for the success. The good news for the museum comes as Union Terminal prepares to undergo an extensive two-year restoration.

 

• Yesterday we told you Cincinnati City Councilman and aspirant to the U.S. Senate P.G. Sittenfeld was holding a news conference in Columbus to announce a big idea on gun control, a key issue for his Senate campaign. Well, here are the deets — Sittenfeld wants to pass an amendment to the Ohio constitution that would allow cities to make their own gun laws, meaning that places like Cincinnati could pass tighter restrictions on guns as long as they were within the scope of state and federal laws. The amendment would also allow cities like Cleveland to reinstate bans on assault weapons that were overturned by the Ohio Supreme Court in 2006. The drivers behind Sittenfeld’s call for the amendment are two-fold. One, he used yesterday’s announcement to criticize Republican lawmakers who recently expanded the places concealed carry license holders can have their guns to include places like college campuses and daycare facilities. He’s also made the move to further illustrate differences between himself and his primary opponent, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. Sittenfeld has drawn attention to past pro-gun votes by Strickland.

 

• Online voting registration may soon be an option for some Ohioans, but only for those with a valid Ohio driver’s license. Legislation setting up online registration not requiring signed paperwork is making its way through the Ohio state house and has bipartisan support. Lawmakers are hoping to get the bill passed in time for it to go into effect before the Oct. 11 deadline for the November election, but some conservative groups say it should be held until 2017 so online security issues can be vetted to prevent hacking. The Ohio House of Representatives is next to vote on the bill, which would go into effect 90 days after it is passed.

 

• One in four children under the age of six is food insecure in Ohio and the state is 38th in the country when it comes to childhood poverty, a new study says. The Ohio Children’s Defense Fund conducted the study, which found that 653,000, or 24 percent, of Ohio kids don’t get enough to eat. That sets poor children up for learning and development challenges that can linger for years, the organization says. OCDF says efforts like school lunch programs and other initiatives that help low-income people are vital to fixing that problem, and has pushed lawmakers to do more to expand those programs.

 

• Finally, did Ohio Gov. John Kasich shine in his first Trump-less debate last night? Well, not so much, but he also didn’t crash and burn either. Kasich mostly ignored addressing traditionally hard-right primary voters in the debate’s host state Iowa, which has a Feb. 1 primary looming. Instead, he spent much of his time sending a more pragmatic and even friendly message, a move pundits think is calibrated to woo New Hampshire’s less ideologically-hidebound conservatives set to cast their own primary vote Feb. 9. Kasich again tried on the compassionate conservative routine last night, pulling out his best lines about the ways biblical scripture have informed his stance on the need to help the needy. Kasich also said that speedy action would have been the best response to the ongoing crisis with Flint, Mich.'s lead-polluted water scandal.


If you just read the blurb above about childhood poverty, know about the lead crisis in Sebring, Ohio, are familiar with the state's economic performance or the way Kasich’s administration deals out food stamp work waivers, that probably sounds a little disingenuous. But then, welcome to the world of politics. By comparison, the rest of the GOP field had a pretty rowdy night, even absent Trump. U.S. Sens Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, along with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, tangled over immigration, which is shaping up to be a huge issue among xenophobes, err, I mean GOP primary voters. Most of the other candidates faded into the background, with Cruz and Rubio getting the most airtime — 13 minutes of speaking time a piece. Kasich came in at a respectable 9 minutes, though mostly avoided tangling with or being addressed by the other candidates. Trump, meanwhile, still leads in the polls despite skipping the debate in protest.

 

That’s it for me. Twitter. E-mail. You know the drill. It’s supposed to be really nice this weekend, so give me tips on your favorite off-the-radar long bike ride route. I’m out!

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

Hey all. Here’s the news today.

In the wake of a big municipal water scandal, Cincinnati officials are pushing for tests on some of the city’s water. You’ve probably seen the huge headlines about Flint, Michigan, where a change in water sourcing triggered the corrosion of pipes and caused some of the city’s residents to be exposed to unhealthy, even toxic, levels of lead. There is evidence that state officials knew about that corrosion and did nothing, which has led to a major controversy. Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman yesterday asked for testing following revelations that some 16,000 properties served by Greater Cincinnati Water Works get their water through lead pipes.

Smitherman says the city has a “moral duty” to make sure lead contamination isn’t happening through the city’s water supply. Replacing lead the lead pipes could cost $82 million, but many are on private property, so the city would be expected to split the cost with private owners. Smitherman’s suggestion, which will be discussed Monday in the Law and Public Safety Committee he chairs, drew response from City Manager Harry Black and other officials reassuring the public that Cincinnati isn’t in Flint’s position and that the water here is safe. Regular tests are conducted on sample households in the city, and 95 percent of households tested have very low or no lead in their water, according to Black.

• The last hospital in Cincinnati that performed abortions when fatal birth defects are detected in fetuses has ceased that practice. Mothers carrying fetuses that cannot survive outside the womb were able to obtain abortions at Christ Hospital, but now will now need to go a nearby Planned Parenthood clinic or leave the city for the procedure due to a change in hospital policy. The hospital performed 14 such procedures in 2015 and 18 in 2014. The new policy now allows abortions only when a pregnancy is a threat to the life of the mother, a policy followed by the city’s other major hospitals. The change comes following revelations that Christ and other hospital weren’t properly reporting the procedures to state officials, which led to a push from the Ohio Department of Health for the data.

• Cincinnati City Councilman and U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld is pushing his proposals for new gun control laws today in Columbus. Sittenfeld, who is challenging former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in the Democratic primary for the chance to try and unseat Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman, has made gun issues a keystone of his campaign. Sittenfeld is proposing an amendment to the state’s constitution to make firearms harder to obtain for those who might use them for violence. Several gun control advocates are joining him at a news conference at the statehouse, where he’ll announce the details of his proposal.

• Back to women’s health: The Ohio Senate yesterday passed a bill that would strip state and some federal funds from Planned Parenthood because the women’s health provider performs abortions. That bill now has to go back to the state House, which will approve minor changes the Senate made. The bill came after filmmakers Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, released a video purporting to show Texas Planned Parenthood officials offering to sell fetal tissue. However, that video was heavily edited, the organization says, a contention that a grand jury in Texas agreed with. That jury declined to bring charges against Planned Parenthood, instead indicting the filmmakers on felony records-tampering charges. Pro-choice advocates have blasted Ohio’s legislation, pointing out that it stems from the now-discredited activist video and that the government funding in question never went for abortions, instead funding vital women’s healthcare services. The House is expected to pass the legislation, which will then go to Gov. John Kasich for approval.

• Finally, as you probably already know, Donald Trump has decided to boycott tonight’s GOP presidential primary debate unless moderator Megyn Kelly is removed. Trump really, really doesn’t like Kelly, but anyway. Should Trump pull out of the debate for certain, he might draw a bunch of viewers away from the circus… I mean, uh, debate. But he might also give an opportunity for other candidates, including Ohio. Gov. John Kasich, to have more speaking time. Trump has dominated the debates so far, mostly with the kinds of rhetorical gushes that have hard-right GOP voters enthralled and leave others scratching their heads. There’s a chance that in his absence, a more substantive debate might occur, one that allows Kasich to showcase his long experience as a career politician. That could be a vital opportunity, as it’s definitely make or break time for candidates like Kasich facing down the Iowa primary just days away and with New Hampshire voting just about a week later. Trump leads in both of those states.

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<![CDATA[Nonprofit Issues Grants to Aid Local Schools]]> A recently formed Cincinnati education-focused nonprofit announced today that it will hand out its first two grants — totaling more than $1.4 million — to aid two different projects at Cincinnati Public Schools and two local Catholic schools. 


Accelerate Great Schools, a nonprofit made up of business leaders, educators and philanthropists, will be giving a grant of $128,000 to help aid a partnership between CPS and the nonprofit TNTP (formally The New Teacher Project) in developing a better hiring system for its principals. It will also give a grant of up to $1.3 million to help St. Francis de Sales in Walnut Hills and St. Cecilia School in Oakley to implement a blended learning model next school year with the help of the nonprofit Seton Education Partners, which works with disadvantaged students in Catholic schools.

Accelerate Great Schools held the press conference at St. Joseph's Catholic School in the West End, which has had Seton's blended learning model in place since the last school year. The technology-driven approach to education would have students using software on computers for part of their classroom experience.


"Basically what the classroom looks like is very different from your traditional classroom; computers are in every room," said Susie Gibbons, interim superintendent at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, at the press conference. "Students are given portions of every period of every day on a computer where the software is tailored to their needs and their special learning difficulties to bring them up and beyond grade levels." 

The separate $128,000 grant would aid a partnership between CPS and TNTP to work with the school district's leadership to improve their hiring system for the district's principals. 

Superintendent Mary Ronan says the school district worked with TNTP last year to change the hiring system for teachers, under which CPS then hired 320 new teachers during the last school year. She says the nonprofit helped the district develop new interview questions, rubrics and scenarios to aid the human resources department in screening and hiring teachers. She thinks the new system has been very successful, and says CPS is currently looking to fill eight positions for principals. "I think we hired some just outstanding teachers, so we're hoping to also do that with our principal pipeline," Ronan says. 

These grants come as the first of the $25 million Accelerate Great Schools hopes give out to Cincinnati area public, private and charter schools. It says through the grant process, it hopes to help aid the city's poorest students by helping schools select and train talented teachers and principals — and double the number of spots at high-performing schools across Cincinnati from 5,000 to 10,000 in the next five years. 


The make-up of the seven-month-old nonprofit's leadership leans heavier on the side of business leaders and philanthropists than on educators. Some have questioned the motives behind the group, wondering if they're actually most interested in promoting the charter schools in the city. The group's initial plan for the money when it launched last May had $15 million going toward creating charter schools that would partner with CPS or the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

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

Good morning all. Here’s what’s up in the news today.

Could downtown get a grocery store? It’s looking more like a possibility after the Greater Metropolitan Housing Authority’s board voted yesterday to negotiate a potential partnership to redevelop a former CMHA office building on Central Parkway between Race and Vine streets. The developers, Kingsley + Co. and Anchor Properties, envision a $28 million project featuring a 40,000-square-foot grocery store and other retail space, a four-level parking garage above that and three floors of office space. The Kingsley/Anchor project will be at least 51 percent minority-owned, according to its proposal to the housing agency. CMHA says it has moved operations to Western Avenue in the West End, no longer uses the building on Central Parkway and is looking to find ways to have it generate revenue it can use to redevelop affordable housing around the city. Leadership with the housing authority says putting affordable housing on the site would require zoning changes and is not requiring such housing in proposals from developers. The neighborhood around the site has lost 73 percent of its affordable housing since 2002, according to a recent report.

• This is cool news: A large foundation and a group of 50 donors have stepped up to fund admissions to Cincinnati’s Contemporary Art Center downtown for the next three years. The Johnson Foundation pitched in $75,000, and the donor group, called The 50, each put in $3,000 to raise another $150,000. Those who paid for memberships to the museum will now get exclusive discounts and free admission to some of the museum’s special programs and events, but the museum itself will be free for all to attend.

• If you read this spot regularly, you remember I told you about Peter Santilli, the conservative online radio personality from Cincinnati who went to Oregon to join the militia occupation of the federal Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Well, Santilli has gone and gotten himself arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on felony charges there. Anti-government protesters, including Nevada rancher and militia leader Ammon Bundy, have led that protest, which began shortly after the new year. Bundy and four other militia members were also arrested yesterday in an earlier incident with the FBI that resulted in the death of a sixth protester after a shoot-out with authorities. Few details have been released about that incident, including who fired first and what led to the confrontation.

• Ohioans like booze, if you didn’t already know. And 2015 was a record year for the sale of the stuff, apparently, with residents in the Buckeye State spending more than $1 billion on liquor last year. We apparently have a particular soft spot for whiskey. Among the most popular spirits: Jack Daniels, which sold more than 379,000 gallons here, and Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey and Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey, which both sold nearly 300,000 gallons.

• Finally, let’s go to our neighbors to the west for some uh… pretty interesting comments from an Indiana lawmaker. Woody Burton, a Republican state rep. from Whiteland, invoked convicted child pornographer and former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle, psychopathic killers and individuals with weight issues when fielding questions about proposed legislation that would expand civil rights for LGBT Hoosiers during a town hall meeting. Burton argued that a person’s LGBT status is “behavioral” in the same way and shouldn’t be protected by the law for that reason.

“If I pass a law that says transgenders [sic] and homosexuals are covered under the civil rights laws, then does it say anywhere that fat white people are covered?” he said, reflecting that he has been picked on in the past for his weight. Yikes. Hundreds of academic studies over the years have led the American Psychological Association and other experts to deem LGBT status part of the normal spectrum of human experience, and there is evidence that gender expression and sexual preference is genetic.

Anyway, I’m out. Hit me on that Tweeter thing or via good old fashioned email.

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<![CDATA[Is OTR Affordable?]]>

Options for housing in one of Cincinnati’s most popular neighborhoods are becoming more diverse but also less affordable for the city’s lowest-income renters, a new study shows.

Xavier University’s Community Building Institute on Jan. 25 released a housing inventory commissioned by the Over-the-Rhine Community Council of the housing stock in the quickly developing neighborhood.

The study, which uses Census data from 2000, found that the most affordable housing (units costing about $400 for a one bedroom) had decreased by 73 percent, going from 3,235 units in 2000 to just 869 in 2015. After that decrease, such affordable housing now accounts for about 22 percent of the neighborhood’s housing stock.

The study also found that since 2000, the number of occupied housing units in the neighborhood had increased and that many of those units — some 70 percent — were affordable to people making less than the area median income of about $71,000 for a family of four.

Community council members say the study’s finding of plentiful middle class housing and remaining subsidized units demonstrates that OTR is inclusive.

“This shows that we are still very diverse,” OTR Community Council President Rylan Messer told WCPO. “But the big question is, what are the next 10 to 20 years going to look like now that we have this data? If we wake up 20 years from now, and this is a predominately Caucasian, upper-middle class neighborhood, we will have failed miserably. ”

Other community council members, as well as Liz Blume, director of study authors CBI, echoed the sentiment that the neighborhood has housing stock for a diverse group of residents.

Some of the lowest-cost units gone from OTR belonged to Hart Realty, run by former affordable housing magnate Thomas Denhart. In 2001, following the civil unrest in OTR and changes to the way the Department of Housing and Urban Development assessed fair market rents for Section 8 buildings, Denhart declared bankruptcy and got rid of properties containing about 1,000 of the 1,600 affordable units he controlled. But Hart's bankruptcy in and of itself didn't eliminate all those units from the neighborhood's supply of lowest-income housing. Reports from the time show that some of Denhart's properties sold quickly and that between 60 and 70 percent of those units stayed occupied for some time after the bankruptcy, often with HUD tenants. It's hard to know how many low-income tenants eventually trickled out of OTR due to the bankruptcy, but it's far less than the 2,356 low-income units CBI found the neighborhood lost in the last decade and a half.

Questions around the large drop in the neighborhood's most affordable housing remain, and some residents say the change has been difficult. Angela Merritt, who works with Over-the-Rhine Community Housing and lives in affordable housing on East Clifton Avenue, says the shifts she’s seen in the neighborhood over the last decade have taken some adjustment and that OTR’s transformation could be more equitable.

“It’s just about making the change for everyone,” she says. “I don’t think it’s for everyone, and it should be.”

Over the summer, CityBeat shared the story of residents who have had to leave the neighborhood due to rising prices and new development.

OTR has seen rapid change in the past decade, mostly through the efforts of the Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation, founded in 2003 by then-mayor Charlie Luken and city business leaders. At the time, there were more vacant buildings in the neighborhood and much of the housing there was affordable, much of it subsidized for low-income residents.

3CDC has poured almost $1 billion of public and private money into OTR, including an expansive remodeling of Washington Park and intensive residential and commercial development efforts along the southern stretch of Vine Street in what has become known as the Gateway Corridor.

CBI's area median income includes incomes from all over Hamilton County. But the neighborhood's median household income is different. Overall, it's about $15,000 a year, according to Census data, though that number has risen quickly in the southern portions where development has occurred most heavily. In the tract containing southern Vine Street, median income is nearly $40,000 a year. In the northern Census tracts, it remains around $10,000 a year.

The southern section of OTR has seen the biggest shift in housing. According to the CBI study, more than half of the housing stock in the area around Vine and Main streets south of Liberty Street is affordable only to those making more than 60 percent of the area median income, or about $43,000 a year.

Those changes are now moving north of Liberty Street as well, the study suggests, though those areas still have a majority of housing affordable to people who make under 60 percent of the area median income. More change is headed for the area north of Liberty Street as development springs up around Findlay Market, Rothenberg Elementary and other locations.

New shifts in housing aren’t just about numbers, some who live in the neighborhood say, but also about the way the neighborhood feels and how newcomers and long-time residents interact.

“It’s all about how humble you are,” says Merritt, who lives north of Liberty Street, of newer residents. “It’s been somewhat of an adjustment because the lower-income people feel like new people are trying to take over. But we all need to learn how to deal with each other, no matter what class you are.”


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