by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: News
at 11:04 AM | Permalink
Greater Cincinnati employment rates up; group confronts Mayor Williams at Norwood Council meeting; Kochs plan big political spending spree
Hello Cincy. There’s a lot happening today, so let’s get it going. Later today, Mayor John Cranley and the Economic Inclusion Advisory Council he appointed last year will present the results of a study on ways to make the city more inclusive for businesses owned by minorities and women. The EIAC has been tasked with finding ways to get more minority-owned businesses included in city contracts, and the board came up with 37 suggestions, including ordinances that make diversity a priority in the city when it comes to contracts it awards. Cincinnati, which awards a very small number of contracts to minority and women-owned businesses, has already tried twice to find ways to boost that number, but Cranley is confident the EIAC’s recommendations will make the city a “mecca” for minority-owned businesses.• Here’s some (qualified) good news for Greater Cincinnati: Unemployment in the region has fallen to 4.1 percent, the lowest it’s been since 2001. Though the region lost 2,000 jobs in December, numbers are up overall from this time last year, as we’ve added more than 21,000 jobs in the last 12 months. The Greater Cincinnati area’s unemployment rate at that time was 6.1 percent. Cincinnati’s fairing better than Ohio and the nation on the jobs front. Ohio’s unemployment rate is 4.8 percent, and the country’s as a whole is 5.4 percent. All those numbers have been trending downward. But there’s a caveat to all that good news: Wages have remained stagnant. More folks may have jobs, but folks aren’t necessarily making more or enough money at those jobs.• Are we getting closer to a replacement for the Brent Spence Bridge? Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear are expected to announce a plan for the bridge at a news conference in Covington later today. Here’s what they’re expected to put on the table: a 50/50 split on costs between the two states, tolls that cost as close to $1 as possible with a discount for frequent commuters and ideas to make the $2.6 billion project more affordable. Kentucky owns the bridge and gets final say in the plans. A bill seeking a public-private partnership for the replacement project will more than likely be introduced in the Kentucky state legislature this session, though what happens after that is unclear. Kasich and Beshear have been working together on rehabbing the bridge, a vital link in one of the nation’s busiest shipping routes, since 2011. But Beshear will leave office after this year due to term limits. Meanwhile, Northern Kentucky officials and lobbying groups are pushing against tolls on the bridge, fighting it out with other, pro-toll business groups. • The proposed Wasson Way bike trail through the city’s east side could stretch all the way into Avondale, supporters of the project say. The trail, which has been one of Mayor Cranley’s top priorities, is slated to go from Bass Island Park near Mariemont into Cincinnati along an unused rail line mostly owned by Norfolk Southern. Original plans had the trail stopping at Xavier, but a new 1-mile extension would carry cyclists all the way into uptown, near big employers like the city’s hospitals and University of Cincinnati. There is still a long road ahead for the trail, including securing right of way on land the trail passes through and an argument about whether to leave room for a future light rail line. Costs for the project range from $7 million to $32 million depending on that and other considerations. • A group angry over Norwood Mayor Thomas Williams’ letter decrying “race-baiting black leaders” spoke at a Norwood City Council meeting yesterday evening asking for an apology. At least 14 people spoke out against the mayor’s letter, which he posted on social media last month in solidarity with the city’s police department. Among those who packed council chambers were Norwood residents, members of Black Lives Matter Cincinnati, a group we talk about more in this story, and activist and Greater Cincinnati National Action Network President Bishop Bobby Hilton."It was stabbed right in the heart ,” Hilton said at the meeting, referring to the letter. “I humbly ask if you would please retract that statement and we'll stand with you in supporting your law enforcement."• A coalition of teachers, parents and progressive organizations in Ohio has banded together to ask the state board of education not to renew the charters of 11 charter schools in the state run by Concept Schools, Inc., including the troubled Horizon Academy in Dayton. That school is being investigated after former teachers there reported attendance inflation, sexual harassment, racism and other issues last year. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also investigating several schools in Ohio run by the Chicago-based Concept after reports of misuse of federal money and other violations. Concept denies any wrong doing. • Hey, this is a fun tidbit. The Koch brothers, those modern American captains of industry who make billions of dollars a year, mostly in the energy sector, are planning on spending big cash in the 2016 election. That in and of itself isn’t news — the Kochs have been dumping obscene amounts of cash into local, state and federal elections for years, aided recently by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. But just how obscene the amount of cash could be in 2016 is noteworthy. The brothers’ political organization has set a goal of spending more than $889 million in the next presidential election cycle. That’s a lot. A whole lot. To illustrate how much, that amount is more than the $657 million the Republican National Committee and congressional campaign committees spent in 2012. Democrats spent even more, but not as much as the Kochs are planning to spend in 2016. Dumping that much cash into the election would more or less match the sky-high projected expenditures by Democrats and Republicans for the next presidential election. So basically, at least when it comes to political spending, we have a third party we didn’t vote for made up entirely of the Koch brothers and their rich donor cronies. Awesome.
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: News
at 11:20 AM | Permalink
Questions about I-71 interchange's benefit to Avondale, Walnut Hills; high-ranking GOP Congressman spoke at white power convention; whatever you're doing on New Year's is better than this
Morning all. It’s a slow news day around here, and we’re waiting for tomorrow for our obligatory end-of-year top 10 news stories list. But there are still some interesting things happening around the city and beyond in the waning days of 2014.Police officers from around the region gathered last night to pay respects to two officers killed by a gunman in New York City earlier this month. Police from Covington, Kenton County and Campbell County attended a rally at a memorial for fallen officers in Covington to remember New York City Police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, who were shot while sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn. A few dozen members of the public also gathered for the event. Ramos and Liu’s shooter, who had earlier murdered his girlfriend in a Baltimore suburb, later killed himself. The incident has become a controversial moment in the nation’s tense struggle over police killings of unarmed people of color. Ramos and Liu’s shooter mentioned ongoing anger over the killing of Eric Garner, an unarmed man who died after an officer placed him in a choke hold. Activists decrying police violence have said the shootings of the officers are a tragedy and have called for peaceful protests. • Cincinnati has gone all-in on a new highway interchange where I-71 passes through Walnut Hills and Avondale. But questions continue over whether that interchange will bring jobs and prosperity to some of the city’s poorest residents. It’s a tough question to answer because the project is fairly unique. Building a new highway on and off ramp in an already-built urban area is nearly unprecedented, and it’s tough to tell what will happen. That’s especially true since it’s unclear who will end up owning some of the 670 acres around the interchange officials say is blighted and in need of fresh development. City officials tout a study by the UC Economics Center that predicts the new interchange could create 7,000 jobs. But other studies of highway development projects say it can be exceedingly hard to tell what their impacts will be. The city has more than $25 million in the project, so stakes are high. They’re also high for residents of the neighborhood — as we reported this summer, Avondale has a 40 percent poverty rate and has historically found itself cut off from the rest of the city economically and geographically. What’s more, some residents will need to move to make way for the interchange. As the project continues toward its November 2016 completion date, questions keep swirling. • State Rep. John Becker, a staunch conservative representing suburban Cincinnati, has been busy during his freshman term, according to a recent profile in the Columbus Dispatch. The former anti-abortion activist has authored tons of right wing legislation — 27 bills, in fact — and has courted a similarly prodigious amount of controversy. He’s been outspoken about police shootings of people of color, even commenting that he “wasn’t sure who the victim was” in the case of Mike Brown, an unarmed black man shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. He has suggested that similar shootings in Cleveland and Beavercreek involved drugs or “suicide by cop.” He’s also questioned why Planned Parenthood isn’t considered a hate group. That’s all charming stuff. Becker was reelected in November and will enjoy an increasingly conservative House — Republicans will hold 65 seats there next session. Up next on his agenda: abolishing the state’s income tax. Great!• In national news, the Washington Post reports that House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, spoke at a white supremacist conference in 2002. The third most powerful member of the House appeared at a European-American Unity and Rights Organization convention in New Orleans hosted by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke when he was a state representative. Representatives for Scalise’s office say he was unaware of the group’s connections with the white power movement and was in the midst of a statewide campaign rallying support for lowering taxes and other conservative ideas. “For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous,” Scalise told the Times-Picayune as the story was breaking last night.The revelation comes as Republicans look to make a new start with an expanded majority in the House and a newly minted majority in the Senate. Meanwhile, Democrats are pummeling Scalise over the revelations.• Finally, if you’re not satisfied with Cincinnati’s New Year's Eve offerings (I can’t imagine why. There are about a million things to do) take heart: Whatever you get into is probably better than watching a giant nail drop in this Pennsylvania town. It's not even metal. It's wood. The, uh, nail dropping will commemorate a historic nail factory. Get wild.
A major highway project and powerful development interests look to reshape three long-neglected uptown neighborhoods
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Recent discussions about an ongoing $100 million highway
project at the intersection of Avondale, Corryville and Walnut Hills have raised
questions about ways development might help address the neighborhoods' recent
struggles — and whether it will at all.
0 Comments · Tuesday, July 1, 2014
A deal approved by City Council June 25
splits limited funds among two affordable housing projects, funding one
in Over-the-Rhine and leaving the door open for another that’s been in
the works for the last few years in Avondale.
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: City Council
at 11:51 PM | Permalink
Council funds one development and leaves the door open for another
A deal approved by City Council June 25 splits the city’s limited funds among two affordable housing projects, funding one one in Over-the-Rhine and leaving the door open for another that’s been in the works for the last few years in Avondale.
The compromise didn’t come without contentiousness, though.
A 100-unit permanent supportive housing project called Commons of Alaska first proposed in 2008 for Avondale has received support from the majority of council in the past, including indications it would get $500,000 in funding toward the facility. But the project has also been delayed as some in Avondale have protested the plans by Columbus-based National Church Residences.
As controversy stalled the Avondale project, Over the Rhine Community Housing put together an unrelated plan to buy up and rehab affordable housing in the Pendleton District in eastern Over-the-Rhine. The city administration indicated to OTRCH that it would be able to use $1.9 million in federal grant money the city holds to help purchase and restore the properties.
Just a couple catches — that’s all the grant money the city has for affordable housing and it’s the same pool of money that would have gone to NCR for Avondale.
The NCR project has been around longer, but some council members are adamantly against it and groups in Avondale opposed to the Commons are vocal and active, continually voicing their opposition to the project.
The Pendleton plan has its own drawbacks. Originally, the plan called for all the available grant money for just 40 units of housing. NCR’s plan called for just a quarter of the funds. OTRCH says the properties in question are very neglected, despite having been rehabbed in the 1990s. They must also be purchased first, which accounts for much of the big price tag. As City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee met June 23, it looked like a battle was shaping up over the money. But it wasn’t to be, and compromise won the day. “Affordable housing and permanent supportive housing are in our heart, they’re what we do,” said Mary Burke Rivers, executive director of OTRCH. “It’s a really difficult position to be in right now, because we support the NCR project.” Rivers asked the Budget Committee to work with both developers to figure out a way to do both projects. Vice Mayor David Mann offered an amendment to give $1.3 million to OTRCH and hold the other $500,000 or so in grant funds until the NCR project can be sorted out or until another supportive housing project can be worked out. The Budget Committee, and subsequently council, passed that deal.
OTRCH, which had looked likely to get all the $1.9 million it requested, agreed to scale back plans and make the lower funding work so both projects could be done.
That doesn’t mean the NCR project has a green light, however. An alternate site in another part of Avondale is under consideration, but there are a number of procedural hurdles and opposition is still loud against the project.
Some resident groups there say Avondale already has a high concentration of low-income housing, a result of historic inequalities in city planning going back to the 1960s. Ruth Johnson Watts said she’s lived in North Avondale since 1963.“When will we stop this trend of keeping crime and poverty concentrated in one or a few neighborhoods?" she asked. "We’re saying that Avondale has reached the capacity for poverty and crime without the necessities of life in our community, like grocery stores, a pharmacy and jobs.”
At least part of the objection to the project is the nature of permanent supportive housing, which provides affordable housing and recovery resources for those who would otherwise be homeless due to addiction problems, mental health issues or disabilities. Advocates say the housing is a necessary step in a multiple-tiered path out of homelessness, starting when an individual enters a temporary shelter and ending when they are able to achieve independent housing. The city’s Homeless to Homes program calls for supportive housing like the Commons at Alaska would provide, but currently the city only has about 15 percent of the units called for in the plan.
NCR has won national recognition for its work with rehabilitative housing, but the group has caught flack for lack of community outreach in Avondale.
Councilmember Christopher Smitherman lambasted the developer during the Budget Committee meeting, saying the group’s efforts to inform Avondale residents about their plan wasn’t good enough and that NCR should be sending letters to every property owner in the area. “This isn’t complicated, this community engagement,” he said. “It really frustrates me that we’re here talking about a project where those community stakeholders haven’t even been properly identified and communicated with."Amy Rosenthal of NCR said the group has reached out to half a dozen key individuals and groups in the area and will continue to work with the community.
During council’s final vote on the compromise yesterday, Councilmember Yvette Simpson suggested that instead of simply opposing more affordable housing in the neighborhood, other council members and Avondale residents should oppose those who aren’t doing the job well. She said her mother had once been placed in what she called sub-standard permanent supportive housing in Avondale.
“The reality is, when you have a great provider for the people who need it, it can be a stability point for the community as opposed to the many facilities in Avondale and throughout our city that are taking a check from people, and people are wandering off,” Simpson said. She recalled a personal experience. “My mother walked home from Avondale to Lincoln Heights and nobody knew she was gone. As someone who has lived with this my entire life, evaluating, trying to find a safe place for a parent, it’s real — you know the difference.”
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: News
at 09:04 AM | Permalink
Uptown changes, LumenoCity sells out, $3 million in Nikes
Good morning all. Let’s start out this Monday news rundown by going uptown. •On Friday, Cincinnati’s Planning Commission passed a sweeping new plan for the area in the coming years. The plan anticipates the upcoming reworking of Interstate 71 and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and envisions big changes to the area in Avondale, Corryville, and Mount Auburn. Planners hope after the new interchange at MLK and I-71 is completed, Reading Road will become a kind of innovation corridor, with new biomedical and other scientific research facilities lining a redesigned, more pedestrian-friendly roadway. The plan also calls for increased development in neighboring business districts, new construction on the numerous vacant plots in the area and increased housing stock close to the central cores of Clifton, Avondale, Corryville, CUF and Walnut Hills.•Other changes are coming to Avondale. Four large apartment buildings housing Section 8 tenants and another vacant building in the neighborhood will be renovated, and the owners of the buildings are looking to have them placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Alameda, Ambassador, Crescent, Poinciana, and Somerset buildings, built between 1896 and the 1920s, will be overhauled starting this fall. The Ambassador, currently empty, will be revamped first, and then the other buildings will follow suit. The Community Builders Cincinnati, the buildings’ owners, will help 120 families who will have to vacate during renovations move to other buildings temporarily. The renovations are expected to cost about $25 million and will finish up sometime in 2016.• Hey, do you wanna go to LumenoCity? Too late. Tickets sold out in 13 minutes this morning. Yeah, I didn’t get any either, because 8 a.m. is way too early for me to operate a computer. But if you’ve got a hundred bucks to drop, you can still scoop some tickets up on eBay. • Nationally, the 2016 presidential race is shaping up to be a wild ride. While Democrats so far seem pretty content with Hillary, the GOP is still courting their man (and yes, their nominee will almost assuredly be a man). Lately, Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas has been getting a lot of attention. Cruz handily won a straw poll at the Texas Republican Convention this weekend. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who is often cited as a front-runner, came in third. Chalk it up to home-state advantage. It’s hard to know who to root for in a contest like that, so I’m just going to hope that somehow the GOP jumps on the whole throw-back trend and nominates Abraham Lincoln again.• Finally, a woman in Kentucky was found selling $3 million in ill-gotten Nikes from her front lawn. That’s a lot of stolen shoes. She said she didn’t know they were stolen and was selling them for $5 a piece. Not a bad deal, really.Tweet at your boy (@nswartsell) or email me tips: email@example.com
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The group heading a supportive housing
project in Avondale announced Feb. 14 that it will initiate monthly
“good neighbor” meetings to address concerns about the facility.
by German Lopez
Demographics, overall numbers move in right direction
The federal government reported slightly better numbers in
January for Obamacare’s once-troubled online marketplaces, but Ohio and
the nation still fall far short of key demographic goals.
For the first time since HealthCare.gov’s glitch-ridden rollout, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) numbers show the amount of new enrollees actually beat projections.
About 1,146,100 signed up for Obamacare in January, slightly higher
than the 1,059,900 previously projected by the Centers for Medicare and
More importantly, a small boost in young adults means 25
percent of 3.3 million enrollees across the nation and 21 percent of
60,000 Ohio enrollees were aged 18 to 34. That’s up 1 percentage point
for the nation and 2 percentage points for Ohio.
The White House previously said 39 percent of enrollees
need to be young adults, who tend to be healthier, to avoid driving up
health care costs by filling the insurance pool with older, sicker
people who typically use more resources.
HHS’ numbers only reflect people who signed up for a
health plan, not people who paid for their first premium, which is
widely considered the final crucial step to getting covered.
Nearly nine in 10 single, uninsured young adults could
qualify for financial assistance through the health care law or free
Medicaid, which expanded eligibility in Ohio through Obamacare, according to HHS.
by German Lopez
As project moves forward, National Church Residences initiates community engagement
The group heading a supportive housing project in Avondale on Friday announced it will initiate monthly "good neighbor" meetings to address local concerns, with the first meeting scheduled at the Church of the Living God, located at 434 Forest Ave., on Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. National Church Residences (NCR) says the meetings will help "set the highest property, safety, and conduct standards" for the 90-unit Commons at Alaska facility, which will aid chronically homeless,
disabled and low-income individuals."National Church Residences is excited to become part of the revitalization of the Avondale neighborhood," said Amy Rosenthal, senior project leader for NCR, in a statement. "Through this series of meetings, we look forward to sitting down with our neighbors and answering their questions about our organization and in particular the planned apartment community."The meetings should help address some Avondale residents' concerns about the project. Although several opponents of the facility say their opposition is not rooted in a not-in-my-backyard attitude that follows so many supportive housing projects, critics consistently argue the housing facility will attract a dangerous crowd that would worsen public safety in the neighborhood.Critics' claims actually contradict some of the research done on supportive housing. A study conducted for similar
facilities in Columbus found areas with permanent supportive housing
facilities saw the same or lower crime increases as demographically
comparable areas.Still, the controversy eventually reached City Council after Councilman Christopher Smitherman proposed pulling the city's support for state tax credits funding the project. In January, council rejected Smitherman's proposal and voted to continue supporting the project. (It's questionable whether a different council decision would have made any difference, since the group already received state tax credits last June.)By several economic indicators, Cincinnati's worst-off certainly need more support. About 34 percent of the overall population and more than half of the city's children live in poverty, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.Correction: This story originally claimed the facility would house 99 apartments, based on a previous estimate. The amount of apartments was actually reduced to 90 through negotiations. We apologize for the error.
by German Lopez
LGBT groups debate timing, Avondale housing project advancing, Kasich tax cuts favor rich
A coalition between Equality Ohio and other major LGBT groups on Friday
officially declared it will not support a 2014 ballot initiative that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state. Instead, the coalition plans to continue education efforts and place the issue on the ballot in 2016. But FreedomOhio, the LGBT group currently
leading the 2014 ballot initiative, plans to put the issue on the ballot this year
with or without support from other groups. CityBeat covered the issue and conflict in further detail here.The group heading Commons at Alaska, a permanent supportive housing project
in Avondale, plans to hold monthly “good neighbor” meetings to address
local concerns about the facility. The first
meeting is scheduled at the Church of the Living God, located at 434 Forest
Avenue, on Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. Some Avondale residents have lobbied
against the facility out of fears it would weaken public safety, but a
study of similar facilities in Columbus found areas with permanent
supportive housing facilities saw the same or lower crime increases as
demographically comparable areas. In January, a supermajority of City
Council rejected Councilman Christopher Smitherman’s proposal to rescind
the city’s support for the Avondale project.Gov. John Kasich’s income tax proposal would
disproportionately benefit Ohio’s wealthiest, an analysis from Policy
Matters Ohio and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found.
Specifically, the proposal would on average cut taxes by $2 for the
bottom 20 percent of Ohioans, $48 for the middle 20 percent and $2,515
for the top 1 percent. The proposal is typical for Ohio Republicans:
They regularly push to lower taxes for the wealthy, even though
research, including from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service,
finds tax cuts for the wealthy aren’t correlated with higher economic
Local policy explainers from the past week:• What Is Mayor John Cranley’s Parking Plan?• What Is Responsible Bidder?
Mayor John Cranley says he wants Catholic Health Partners to locate its planned headquarters in Bond Hill.A new Ohio law uncovered more than 250 high-volume dog
breeders that previously went unregulated in the state. The new
regulations aim to weed out bad, unsafe environments for high-volume dog
breeding, but some animal advocates argue the rules don’t go far
enough. CityBeat covered the new law in further detail here.Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald could
face a longshot primary challenger in May. But the challenger, Larry Ealy of the Dayton
area, still needs his signatures confirmed by the secretary of state to
officially get on the ballot.Former Gov. Ted Strickland could run against U.S. Sen. Rob Portman in 2016, according to The Plain Dealer. Strickland cautioned it’s not an official announcement, but it’s not something he’s ruled out, either.A bill that would make the Ohio Board of Education an
all-elected body appears to have died in the Ohio legislature.
Currently, the governor appoints nearly half of the board’s members. Some legislators argue the governor’s appointments make the body too political.Science says white noise can help some people sleep.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.