by Nick Swartsell
43 days ago
Posted In: News
at 10:06 AM | Permalink
City won't back Mahogany's; Judge rules Ohio law banning campaign ad lies unconstitutional; UN says food is getting cheaper
Things happen. News things. Even on Fridays. That’s why I’m here. Let’s do this.The city will not step in to help Mahogany’s, the embattled restaurant at The Banks. The establishment’s landlord, NIC Riverbanks One LLC, served Mahogany’s an eviction notice last week after the restaurant fell behind on rent and state sales taxes. The city, which recruited Mahogany’s to come to The Banks from Hamilton in 2012 in part to increase diversity at the new development, had until today to step in and broker some kind of agreement between the restaurant and the leasing agent. Mahogany’s owner Liz Rogers has said the restaurant is looking to relocate.New City Manager Harry Black, who started work this week, said the administration won’t be coming to Mahogany’s aid and that it’s high time the city get out of the restaurant business. The restaurant owes about $250,000 on a loan the city gave in 2012. That loan was accompanied by a nearly $700,000 grant.• A federal judge ruled yesterday that a 19-year-old Ohio law banning lies in campaign ads is unconstitutional and must be repealed. That’s a win for Cincinnati-area conservative group Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, as well as anti-abortion group the Susan B. Anthony List, both of whom sued Ohio over the law in 2010. That case stemmed from a complaint then-U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus filed with the Ohio Elections Commission. Driehaus complained that a billboard ad SBA planned to buy accusing him of supporting taxpayer-funded abortions was a lie. The billboard’s owner declined to run the ad due to the possibility of legal action under the Ohio law. SBA and COAST claim that’s a violation of their free speech rights, and a federal judge agreed, saying it was up to voters to decide the truth of political statements, not the government. • Just a quick hit: Yesterday I wrote about Cincinnati’s Red Bike
program, and how it will launch Monday. Well, here’s a useful list of all 30 of the bike share’s locations around the city.•
Another quick one: Mayor John Cranley yesterday convened a meeting for
folks interested in becoming involved in the Young Professionals Kitchen
Cabinet, an advisory board made up of, you guessed it, young
professionals. Cranley gave remarks about his vision for the city as it
relates to the youngins, pledged to consider and advocate for proposals
the group comes up with and also briefly mourned the ephemerality of
his youth. YPKC leadership talked about the role the group can play by
keeping issues important to young people on the city’s radar. The group is taking applications until Oct. 31 and will meet monthly.•
I missed this one a few days ago but feel like it’s noteworthy, so
let’s circle back and take a brief look. Brewery X, the project that looks
to renovate Mount Adams’ historic pump building, is on again
after some back and forth over the terms of a $1.5 million loan the
city was considering for the project. The deal has been restructured in
such a way that the city will retain ownership of the building, instead
of the developer having the option to eventually buy it for $1.• OK, so this is kind of terrifying. Nineteen-year-old T.J. Lane, who killed three people in a 2012 school shooting, briefly escaped from a prison 80 miles south of Toledo yesterday with two other inmates. Ohio Highway Patrol officers recaptured him about six hours later just 100 yards away from the facility. The other two escapees were also quickly recaptured. Prison officials say they’re investigating how Lane escaped and why he wasn’t in a more secure prison.• President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton will participate in a volunteer swearing-in ceremony today honoring the 20th anniversary of national service program AmeriCorps, which was created on this day in 1994. Since that time, more than 900,000 people have served more than 1 billion hours of community service, officials with the program say. Full disclosure: I did AmeriCorps for two years here in Cincinnati and it was pretty much a life-changing experience.• Favorable weather for abundant harvests in major food producing regions around the globe means food has gotten relatively cheaper, the United Nations says. The UN’s global food price index is at its lowest level in four years, with most essentials from grains to dairy products becoming more affordable. Some foods like beef and pork are still expensive, however. And though it’s been going down recently, food is still more expensive than it was in the past. Most prices are still significantly higher than they were in the 1990s.
by Nick Swartsell
80 days ago
County Commissioners leave 136-year-old landmark out of renovation funding plan
Hamilton County Commissioners voted today to axe Music Hall from a proposed sales tax increase designed to pay for renovations to that structure and Union Terminal. Now, only Union Terminal will benefit from the potential tax hike, which county voters will decide on in November. Voters won't get a chance to decide whether a similar hike will pay for Music Hall. Mayor John Cranley and Cincinnati City Council are not happy about the change-up.“As mayor of this city, I’m deeply offended when we’re treated as second-class citizens in our own county,” Cranley said during a vote approving the city’s contribution to renovations at today’s council meeting. “We have done our part. We will pay the tax if it is passed. In no other jurisdiction, not even Hamilton County, is being asked to cut its budget … for these institutions.” Cranley said asking city taxpayers for more money represents a kind of double taxation, since they would also be paying the county sales tax increase. Ostensibly, council was voting to approve annual payments toward upkeep of both Union Terminal and Music Hall for 25 years. The $200,000 yearly commitment to each building adds up to $10 million. Cranley floated the plan last week as a demonstration of the city’s commitment to the landmark buildings. Council approved that money unanimously, but that vote is mostly symbolic now that the fragile plan to fund both renovations with a tax hike, first proposed by a cadre of area business leaders called the Cultural Facilities Task Force, has fallen through. Hamilton County Commissioners Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel said the proposed contributions, which the city already makes, don’t represent a renewed effort to fix the buildings. The city has also pledged another $10 million toward Music Hall repairs. Those contributions weren’t enough for Hartmann, who had been the swing vote on the three-member commission. He signaled he would not vote for the original 14-year, .25 percent sales tax increase designed to raise much of the $331 million needed to repair the buildings. Instead, he voted with fellow Republican Monzel today for an alternate tax measure that left Music Hall out of the deal, raising $170 million over five years for renovations to Union Terminal only. Democrat Todd Portune, who supported the original plan, voted against the new deal.Former P&G CEO Bob McDonald, who led the task force designing the original deal, said the new plan jeopardizes more than $40 million in private donations, as well as historic preservation tax credits. "The idea that somehow there’s going to be more money falling from space
or that this money will be put forward for an alternate plan is a
fallacious assumption," McDonald told the Cincinnati Business Courier. "That money has been committed to us personally
for this plan.”Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld called the development “frustrating.”“I’m not here to add gasoline to the fire, but I think logic is a fair expectation of our elected leaders, and after people have said repeatedly that plans haven’t been vetted, that questions haven’t been answered, they’ve now moved forward with something that has no vetting,” Sittenfeld said, referring to criticisms of the original plan by anti-tax groups like COAST. “I hope people don’t forget what happened eight blocks from City Hall anytime soon.” Monzel said that the plan's details would
be worked out in the coming weeks, and that he wants to keep the county
from overextending itself. “If we limit the scope and focus on the one building that we do have a
history with and limit it to five years, we limit our exposure and can
be able to handle some of these other issues down the road,” he said. Council members said that the city has stepped up to take care of the buildings in the past. “Going back through the real-estate records, it’s clear that time and time again the city has stepped forward,” said Councilman Kevin Flynn. He highlighted the city’s rescue of Union Terminal from a failed plan to turn it into a mall in the 1980s. The city bought the building from a developer after the plan crashed and burned. Flynn also said the city has made significant contributions to 136-year-old Music Hall's upkeep since the 1800s.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 9, 2014
The Coalition Opposed to Additional
Spending and Taxes (COAST) says it will fight Hamilton County
Commissioners’ proposed plans to raise either sales or property taxes to
help pay for renovations to Music Hall and Union Terminal.
by Nick Swartsell
110 days ago
Posted In: News
at 09:26 AM | Permalink
The fight over pitbulls continues, Central Parkway bike lanes progressing, COAST says no way to tax hike
Long weekends mean lots of news. Let's get caught up.Another incident involving pitbulls this weekend has some in Cincinnati calling for the city to reintroduce a ban on the breed. Over the weekend, a pitbull attacked a Jack Russell Terrier in East Price Hill, which has led its owner and others to demand action. The controversy around the dogs flared up in June when 6-year-old Zainabou Drame was severely injured by two pits in Westwood. Councilman Christopher Smitherman has said he’s working on ways to address the issue in the Law and Public Safety Committee he chairs. He has yet to decide 100 percent what the right course of action is to address the problem, he says, but seems to believe that an outright ban wouldn’t work. He voted to repeal a ban the city once had. Smitherman has said he believes the problem is with irresponsible owners, not just the breed itself.• Here’s some great news — work began today on protected bike lanes on Central Parkway. The first phase of the protected lane will stretch from Elm Street north to Marshall Street. Construction happening now includes striping the new bike-only lanes, putting up new signage, building new bus stops that keep buses and bikes separate and eventually installing plastic poles between the bike lanes and the rest of the road. • Local anti-tax group COAST has raised opposition to Hamilton County Commissioners’ proposed plans to raise either sales or property taxes to help pay for renovations to Music Hall and Union Terminal. The group says the city, not the county, owns the buildings and that it’s unfair for the city to ask county taxpayers to foot the bill for their renovations. COAST supports an alternate idea floated by Commissioner Todd Portune that would raise the money by charging a tax on tickets to events held at the buildings. The group opposes putting the tax increase measure on the ballot so that, you know, the majority of taxpayers could decide for themselves the best way to go about paying for the buildings. At least two of the three county commissioners must approve the tax plan by Aug. 6 for it to go on the ballot.• Filming begins today here in town for Miles Ahead, a film exploring Miles Davis’ reclusive period in the 1970s. Don Cheadle is directing the project, as well as starring as Davis. He chose Cincinnati because it has the architecture and vibe of 1950s and '60s-era Manhattan, which the film flashes back to periodically. Cheadle also cites Ohio tax credits, the city’s film support network and the fact that “this town is a music town,” he told The Enquirer.• Construction began last week on five single-family townhomes in the Pendleton district of Over-the-Rhine. It’s part of a plan to bring suburban-style housing to OTR and the urban core, according to developer Edward Wright of Wright Design. Each of the five houses will have three bedrooms and a two-car garage. Four of the homes are new builds and one is a renovation. All are LEED certified. Five more are planned nearby in the next year. • Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul continues to position himself for a 2016 presidential run. As he does so, he’s reaching out to minority voters and becoming more and more blunt about what he sees as the GOP’s big problem. Last week, he put it in the starkest terms yet. “If we’re going to be the white party, we’re going to be the losing party,” he said July 2 at a ceremony in Kentucky honoring the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. Paul has made trips to low-income, predominantly minority communities in Kentucky and other states. But Paul has problems of his own to overcome, including past statements expressing doubt about some elements of the Civil Rights Act and the fact that both he and his father have some racially tinged baggage. Rand will be in Cincinnati July 25 speaking at the National Urban League conference.
by Nick Swartsell
130 days ago
Posted In: News
at 09:04 AM | Permalink
Barricades, free speech, and museums up, McDonalds down
It's morning. I've got news. Check it out.Barricades along McMicken Avenue in Over-the-Rhine and Fairview
are working to deter prostitution, Cincinnati Police said yesterday in a
presentation to City Council’s Human Services Committee. The barriers sit in
three locations along the street and were put up April 30 as part of a program
to fight sex work and human trafficking in the area. Other efforts include new
laws making penalties tougher for pimps and johns and releasing the names of
those convicted of soliciting prostitutes.
The stretch of McMicken is known for high levels of
prostitution and other crime. In January, a 24-year-old woman was shot in the
head and killed on the street. Authorities suspect she was involved in the sex
trade. Police say the volume of prostitution in the area has gone down with the
barricades, though they also acknowledge that they’ve seen an uptick in
activity in places like the West End. Residents in West Price Hill have also
reported an increase in prostitution since the barriers went up.
Some residents in the area aren’t convinced the barricades
help and say they make their daily commutes more difficult, though others say
they’ve noticed a difference in the level of crime. The barricades will come
down by the end of the summer.
• Everyone’s favorite proto-tea party group and an anti-abortion
organization got a win yesterday when the Supreme Court ruled that they can
challenge an Ohio law prohibiting false statements in political advertising.
The court ruled both the Coalition Opposed to Additional
Spending and Taxes, or COAST, and the Susan B. Anthony List were harmed by the
Ohio law and could sue the state. In 2010, Democrat Steve Driehaus, then
running for governor, threatened legal action over SBA plans to buy billboards
saying he voted for “tax-payer funded abortions.” SBA cited Driehaus’ support
of the Affordable Care Act as proof of the claim. Though Driehaus dropped the
matter after losing the election, SBA sued, saying their First Amendment rights
were violated. COAST jumped on the suit as well, claiming they did not carry out
plans for similar advertisements due to fear of legal action.
SBA’s assertion against Driehaus was incredibly
questionable — using taxpayer money for abortions is still illegal under the ACA, and abortion
providers must still go to great pains to show they’re not using public money to
administer the procedure — but the larger issue of free speech convinced both liberal
and conservative justices at the Supreme Court. Lower courts originally
dismissed the groups’ suits, but the case will now go back to them to be
• Former Reds slugger and skipper Pete Rose got to manage a baseball team again yesterday,
doing a one-day stint with the Bridgeport Bluefish, a Connecticut team in the
independent Atlantic League. The 73-year-old hasn’t managed a game since his
suspension from major league baseball 25 years ago for gambling. • In other sports news, Team USA won over Ghana to kick off
its bid for the World Cup, but you probably already know that from all the
yelling your neighbors did about it last night. At least that’s how I know
about it. We're number one!
• …Except when it comes to health care. In fact, a new study
by the Commonwealth Fund shows the United States is number 11 when it comes to
our health care system when compared with 10 other developed countries. The
U.S. ranked behind the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, Germany,
The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, France and Canada in terms of quality of
healthcare available. We’re number 11! That’s like being number one twice! The
U.S. was legitimately number one in a single category, though: We have the
most expensive health care of all the countries in the study.
• Before you get too sad, consider this: Another study
found there are more museums in the United States than Starbucks and McDonalds
combined. We have about 25,000 of the two chains combined, and more than 35,000
museums. Now if they would just combine the two so I can see some postmodern
art and grab a Big Mac at the same time, or maybe enjoy a smoothie as I check out the Kansas Underground Salt Museum.
by German Lopez
Tea party lands school board seats, death penalty scrutinized, AG campaigns spar over role
Fiscal conservatives and tea party activists won more
seats on local school boards last year, putting them in the awkward
position of supposedly looking out for the school’s best interests while
rejecting property tax levies that could boost schools’ resources and outcomes. As one example, a member of the Coalition
Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) now sits on the board for Kings Schools in Warren County that she once sued for public records.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Sunday
called on Gov. John Kasich to immediately halt the death penalty across
the state, following the botched, 26-minute execution of convicted
killer Dennis McGuire. The execution, the longest since Ohio restarted using
capital punishment again in 1999, utilized a new cocktail of drugs that had
never been tried before in the United States. It’s unclear whether
state officials will use the same drugs for the five other executions
planned for the year.David Pepper, the Democratic candidate for attorney
general, says Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine should stop
defending court-rejected, unconstitutional voting and ballot restrictions. DeWine argues that it’s the attorney general’s job to
defend Ohio and its laws, regardless of his opinion on constitutionality. But
DeWine actually stepped aside and assigned a separate attorney to a case
involving restrictions on “false statements” in political campaigns
because, according to him, the law’s constitutionality is questionable.Martin Luther King Jr. and modern Republicans would likely
stand in opposition on numerous issues, including voting rights, the
death penalty and reproductive rights.A top policy aide for Gov. Kasich says local
governments should share more services. But some municipal officials argue the Kasich
administration is just trying to deflect criticisms regarding local government
funding cuts carried out by his Republican administration and the
Republican-controlled legislature over the past few years.The Justice Department is investigating a former chief
judge of Cincinnati’s federal appeals court for nearly $140,000 in
travel expenses he took during his four and a half years on the bench.Fewer Ohio students need remedial college classes following high school graduation.U.S. House Speaker John Boehner called a fellow Republican an asshole, according to Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro.Seven out of 10 people will live in cities by 2050, according to Popular Science.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The American Family Association got real mad last week
when it found out Radio Shack is not using the word “Christmas” in its
holiday sales, calling for a boycott of the retailer due to
“censorship.” WORLD -1
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 04:59 PM | Permalink
COAST attorney files lawsuit following board of elections ruling
A lawsuit filed on Oct. 23 asks the Hamilton County Court of Appeals to compel the Hamilton County Board of Elections to scrub UrbanCincy.com owner Randy Simes off the local voter rolls.
The lawsuit was filed less than two weeks after the board
of elections ruled that Simes is eligible to vote in
The case has been mired in politics since it was
first filed to the board of elections. Simes’ supporters claim the legal actions are meant to suppress Simes’ support for the streetcar project and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls’ mayoral campaign. Proponents of the lawsuit argue they’re just trying to uphold the integrity of voting. Attorney Curt
Hartman is spearheading the lawsuit. He regularly represents the Coalition Opposed to
Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group that opposes the streetcar project and Qualls.
The lawsuit claims Simes isn’t legally able to vote in
Cincinnati because he currently resides in South Korea and lived in Chicago
prior to the move overseas.Ohio election law requires a place of residency to vote,
but someone can remain on the voter rolls if he or she intends to return
to the city or state while in another part of the country or overseas.
Simes’ supporters, who the board of elections sided with
on Oct. 14, claim Simes has every intention of returning to Cincinnati
when he’s done with his work in South Korea. Simes’ contract
with his employer, Parsons Brinckerhoff, states he’ll return to
Cincinnati in two years.
Until then, Simes is registered to vote at a condominium owned by his friend and business colleague, Travis Estell.
According to Estell’s testimony to the
board of election, Simes kept a key and sometimes stayed for a week when he came and went from the residence throughout the spring and summer. Simes also has credit card and bank mail sent to the
address, and he attempted to change his registered driver’s license
address to match the residence, Estell said.But Hartman says the evidence, which was gathered largely through Simes’ social media activities, shows Simes was a visitor, not a resident. He cites Estell’s testimony that Simes lived out of a suitcase and didn’t pay rent when he stayed in Cincinnati.Tim Burke, chairman of the board of elections and Hamilton
County Democratic Party, says there’s a reason three out of four members of the
board, including one Republican, agreed Simes should remain on the voter
“The facts that were presented didn’t rise to the legal
standard of clear and convincing evidence to justify depriving the voter
of his right to vote,” Burke says.
Burke likens the arrangement to a Procter & Gamble
employee who spends a year or two overseas but still keeps the right to
vote in Cincinnati. Burke says someone could even
sell his home in Cincinnati and keep his right to vote from
the sold residence.Hartman says the comparison doesn’t work because a Procter & Gamble employee would live in and keep ties to Cincinnati prior to moving overseas. He claims Simes’ decision to register to vote from Chicago in 2012 effectively broke his electoral ties with Cincinnati and Ohio.But the argument could be rendered moot. Burke, who is named as one of the defendants in the
lawsuit, says the legal challenge might not make it to court
because two different people filed the lawsuit to the court of appeals and complaint to the
board of elections. That could render the
lawsuit procedurally defective and lead to a dismissal, according to Burke.The lawsuit currently has no scheduled hearing or judge,
but Hartman says he hopes to expedite hearings in time for the Nov. 5
Local politicians distance themselves from COAST’s bigoted history and hypocritical tactics
1 Comment · Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says he
would reject an endorsement from the Coalition Opposed to Additional
Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group formed in 1999 with a
history of anti-LGBT causes.
by German Lopez
Pension language mostly upheld, Cranley rejects COAST, Ky. group criticizes housing facility
The Ohio Supreme Court upheld most of the controversial ballot language
for Issue 4 — the tea party-backed city charter amendment that would
semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system — but the court also
concluded that the Hamilton County Board of Elections must add language
about how much the city can contribute to the new retirement accounts.
The amendment would require future city employees to contribute to and
manage individual 401k-style retirement accounts, instead of placing
them under the current pension system in which the city pools pension
funds and manages the investments through an independent board. Voters
will make the final decision on the amendment on Nov. 5, although some
already voted early on ballots that included the full controversial
language. CityBeat analyzed the amendment — and how it could reduce benefits for city employees and raise costs for the city — in further detail here.
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says he would reject and doesn’t want
an endorsement from the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and
Taxes (COAST), a conservative group formed in 1999 with a history of
anti-LGBT causes. The response came just two days after COAST on Oct. 8
tweeted that it supported — but not endorsed — Cranley and council
candidates Amy Murray, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn for a
“change of direction.” In response, Councilman Chris Seelbach,
Cincinnati’s first openly gay council member, called on all candidates
to reject COAST’s support because the conservative group’s most public
members previously opposed LGBT rights and backed efforts to make it
illegal for the city to deem gays and lesbians a protected class in
anti-discrimination statutes.A historic preservation society in Ludlow, Ky., is attempting to block
a transitional housing facility that provides low-cost housing for
recovering addicts as they get their lives back in order. Even though
the facility’s two buildings aren’t designated as “historic,” the Ludlow
Historic Society wrote in an email that it’s “concerned because we are
striving to maintain and improve our housing stock in Ludlow, and
especially make the city a desirable place for young people to own their
homes and raise their families.” There’s not much information on the
ripple effect transitional housing has on communities, but a 2010 study found residents of transitional housing were achieving significant improvement or total abstinence.Ohio officials are considering rules
that would allow oil and gas drillers to store fracking wastewater in
lagoons the size of football fields then recycle the wastewater for further use.
Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons of water,
chemicals and sand are pumped underground to unlock oil and gas
reserves, but the technique produces potentially toxic wastewater that
has to be deposited or recycled somewhere. CityBeat covered fracking and the environmental controversy surrounding it in further detail here.
A state senator proposed a bill
that attempts to keep the monthly per-member growth of Medicaid costs at
3 percent or lower, down from the current projections of 4.6 percent. But the bill doesn’t specify how it would reach the savings required and
instead calls on the legislature and state administration to find a
solution. The bill also doesn’t take up the federally funded Medicaid
expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found
would generate $1.8 billion for the state and insure nearly half a
million Ohioans in the next decade.
A national reporting project will track the accessibility of Plan B, or the “morning-after pill,” now that emergency contraception is a court-upheld right for all women of childbearing age.
The death of Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man convicted of holding three women captive and raping them for a decade, may have been caused by autoerotic asphyxiation, not suicide.
Angelina Jolie’s announcement that she got a double mastectomy may have inspired more Cincinnati women to seek a cancer screening.
Scientists discovered an exoplanet whose mass is 26 percent water. In comparison, Earth is only 0.023 percent water, by mass, according to Popular Science.
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.