by Nick Swartsell 03.04.2015
Posted In: News at 10:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

3CDC eyes Ziegler Park; streetcar contract drama; an unclear sentence could cost millions their healthcare

Hey all. Let’s get this news thing going before the snow comes once again and grinds everything to a halt. Or just dusts the ground with a little inconvenient powder, depending on how much you trust weather forecasters. Yesterday I told you a bit about 3CDC’s presentation to City Council’s Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee. During that meeting, 3CDC head Steven Leeper said the developer might cross the $1 billion threshold this year for investment made in the basin since it began in 2003. Let’s dig into my notes a bit and talk in more detail about a couple things regarding Over-the-Rhine the developers have planned. One of the noteworthy projects on the group’s radar is a redevelopment of Ziegler Park on Sycamore Street. The park is across from the former SCPA building and just a block from Main Street’s active corridor of restaurants, bars and apartments. 3CDC head Steve Leeper said Ziegler’s revamp would increase the number of basketball courts and other active features currently found there. Removal of the courts at Washington Park during its 2010 revamp by 3CDC caused controversy among neighborhood residents, many of whom used the courts regularly. Leeper promised that while Washington Park’s character is more “passive” in nature, Ziegler would be a much more “active” park.“There will be a lot more athletic activities going on there,” Leeper said, “and hopefully it will attract kids from the neighborhood who can spend their time in those athletic endeavors like we all did when we were kids."• Leeper also outlined progress on three facilities for individuals without homes — two in Queensgate set to replace the Drop Inn Center and City Gospel Mission facilities currently in Over-the-Rhine and a third in Mount Auburn built to replace the Anna Louise Inn downtown. These projects have been controversial — advocates fought hard for years to keep the Drop Inn Center at its location in OTR and a protracted legal battle stretched on for many months between Cincinnati Union Bethel, which runs the Anna Louise Inn in Lytle Park, and Western & Southern Financial Group, which eventually purchased the property against CUB’s wishes. The new spaces are a bit further from the city’s center, though they do have a larger capacity. • Speaking of the Drop Inn Center, its winter shelter will be open the rest of this week in response to dropping temperatures, according to a release sent out by the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. Usually, the winter shelter is closed by this time of year, but with winter taking its time going away, the shelter will stay open a bit longer. • Here we go again: More streetcar drama could be coming our way. There is currently a potential fight brewing over who will operate the transit project. Council has set a limit of $4.3 million a year on bids for running the streetcar. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority is taking bids on the contract, and there’s controversy over whether to use union employees for the job or not. Some council members favor that move, even if it costs a bit more, and they’ve asked  SORTA to negotiate with the Amalgamated Transit Union, which also runs the city’s bus service. But ATU has accused SORTA of dragging its feet on contract negotiations and trying to undercut the union by demanding a separate collective bargaining agreement for running the streetcar. SORTA says a separate agreement is necessary because the scale of the streetcar — just 30 employees at most — is much smaller than 750 people who run the city’s bus service. Union officials, however, says that SORTA is trying to get the lowest bid possible out of the union in order to drive other bids down as well. My guess is we’ll be hearing a lot more on this one. A decision must be made on the operator of the project by July. • Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld today said he will stay in the race for U.S. Senate, ending speculation he might bow out after former governor Ted Strickland entered the race last week. Sittenfeld will face Strickland in the Democratic primary. The winner will face incumbent Sen. Rob Portman, unless he is felled by a primary challenger — an unlikely possibility. “Since we launched our campaign, I have been more grateful than I can express for the enthusiasm, encouragement and support we've received,” Sittenfeld said today in a statement on social media and his website. “So I want you — my supporters and friends — to hear it from me directly: I'm all in. Ohio needs a forward-looking leader to replace Rob Portman and the broken culture in Washington that he's long been part of.”
• You might be able to walk around The Banks with a bit of the ole’ alcheyhol on Opening Day. For a while now, lawmakers in Ohio have been trying to pass legislation that would allow cities to designate open container districts where folks can have a beer out in public. It looks like the legislation is good to go, with enough support at the State House, and now local officials are telling the Ohio General Assembly to hurry the dang thing up so we can chug a couple Moerleins in public to celebrate the Reds beating the Pirates April 6. The bill looks likely to pass the House, hopefully with the two-thirds vote margin needed to put it into effect immediately. Local State Sens. Democrat Cecil Thomas and Republican Bill Seitz have introduced a bill in the Senate to speed the process up there as well. Now that’s what I call bipartisanship. If the bill passes, council will have to scramble to create and approve the districts, one of which looks likely to be the area around the stadium. Ladies and gentlemen, you have a month. Get to work.• Hey! Do you want people fracking in state parks? It could happen soon whether you like it or not. Four years ago, Gov. John Kasich signed into law a provision allowing fracking on state land. He then pulled a fast one and declined to fund the commission that would give drillers approval for fracking permits on that land, basically circumventing the law he signed. Very clever. But the Ohio General Assembly, which is currently dominated by pro-fracking Republicans, is working to pass a bill called House Bill 8 that would bypass that commission. Proponents of the bill say it’s meant to help private landowners who want to sell drilling rights to wells that might end up under state land. But critics note that under the current version of the bill, so called “surface impacts,” or drilling directly on state land, are not outlawed and would be permissible if the law passes. The bill heads to committee next week and looks to pass there, after which it will be considered by the whole House. • In national news, Supreme Court arguments begin in King vs. Burwell today, a lawsuit which could revoke health care subsidies for 7.5 million people currently signed up under the Affordable Care Act under the federal exchange. The core of the case is the contention that the language of the 2009 law does not allow the federal government to issue subsidies to people who went through the federal exchange, and that only those living in states that created their own exchanges are eligible for government help with their health care bills. It’s a nitpicky suit turning on a few words in a turn of phrase, but it could completely unravel Obamacare by making it unaffordable for those in the 34 states that did not or could not establish their own health care exchanges online. Many agree that’s the point of the suit, in fact — another attempt to repeal the healthcare system by throwing a legal wrench into its works. Just think! A pedantic semantics debate could leave millions without access to health care. And you thought clear writing wasn’t important.That’s it for me. Hit me with those tweets and those e-mails: @nswartsell or nswartsell@citybeat.com
by Nick Swartsell 12.11.2014
Posted In: Homelessness, News at 12:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Seelbach Proposes Protecting Homeless Under Hate Crime Laws

Additional proposal would add $45,000 to winter shelter

A proposed city ordinance could add homeless people to groups protected by hate crime laws, making Cincinnati one of just three cities to do so. The proposal by Councilman Chris Seelbach could add up to 180 days in extra jail time for those convicted of crimes against people because they don't have homes.“Homeless people are targeted because they’re vulnerable," Seelbach said during a news conference today in Washington Park, during which he also announced a proposal to add money for winter shelters. “This hopefully will send a message to everyone that even though homeless people may seem vulnerable and on the streets, their lives and their safety are just as important as every single person in Cincinnati we live and work with every day.”Both proposals will need to be approved by Cincinnati City Council, but Seelbach says he's confident a majority of council will support them.Six-hundred-thousand Americans experienced homelessness last year. One-fourth were children. Many are veterans.  The National Coalition for the Homeless has been tracking homeless hate crimes since 2000. Over a four-year period starting in 2009, there were 1,437 attacks nationally and 357 deaths, according to a report from the coalition.Currently, gender, sexual orientation, race, national origin and disability are protected under hate crime state and federal hate crime laws. Only two cities, including Cleveland, consider crimes against people because they are homeless to be hate crimes. Cincinnati would be the third if Seelbach’s proposal passes. Several states have committed to begin considering such violence hate crimes, including Alaska, California, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island and Washington. Legislation has been introduced into the Ohio General Assembly multiple times proposing a similar move but has been voted down.“It will hopefully send a message to our community that people experiencing homeless do matter and that the city takes this seriously,” said Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition Director Josh Spring. “Primarily young people, high school and college age, commit these crimes. And if they’re caught, their response to why they did it is, ‘Why does it matter? It’s just a homeless person. We’re just cleaning up the streets.’ We want the city to say it does matter.’”Cincinnati has seen a number of incidents of violence against the homeless, and the Coalition here has worked for years to get such actions classified as hate crimes. Four years ago, Robert Mehan was beaten and nearly killed as he was walking on Walnut Street downtown. A young man picked Mehan up and slammed him into the ground. He then beat him with beer bottles. Mehan was in a coma and almost died. In July, John Hensley, a 49-year-old staying at the Drop-Inn Center, was leaving for work cleaning Great American Ball Park when he was attacked from behind by Alexander Gaines, 19, Brandon Ziegler, 21 and a 17-year-old minor. The three punched, kicked and kneed Hensley for 15 minutes. They’re currently facing charges in Hamilton County courts.“They didn’t say anything, they were laughing," Hensley told a reporter after the incident. "I feel I was targeted because I am a homeless guy leaving the Drop Inn Center at 4 in the morning and no one was around, they thought they could get away with it and they didn’t.”While the classification of such violence as a hate crime may make those experiencing homelessness safer in the long term, Seelbach’s other proposal, which would add $45,000 in funding for the city’s winter shelter, will bring more immediate relief. That’s a big change from the situation in the past, advocates say.“We’re extremely happy about the change over the last several years,” Spring says. “It was not that long ago that the winter shelter did not open until it was 9 degrees wind chill or lower.” Last night, The Drop Inn Center in Over-the-Rhine housed 292 people, according to Arlene Nolan, the center’s director. The winter shelter opened Nov. 19 this year, much earlier than usual. “We’ve been able to accommodate well over 30 percent more than our normal capacity,” Nolan said.Increased funding for the winter shelter “is something that is critical in assuring that we meet our ultimate goal, which is to make sure no one freezes to death on the streets in Cincinnati during the winter,” said Kevin Finn, director of Strategies to End Homelessness. More than 750 people used the county’s 11 shelters last night, according to Finn. That’s just part of the city’s homeless population — others are staying with other people they may or may not know or sleeping in camps around the city.Family shelters in the city are receiving about a dozen calls a day, according to Spring, and can only accommodate about 20 percent of the families who need their services.“There is no silver bullet to ending homelessness or preventing people from attacking people who are experiencing homelessness,” Seelbach said. “This is part of the solution. The other part is strategies to end homelessness and getting people who are experiencing homelessness back into a house. That takes everything from the Drop Inn Center to transitional housing to permanent supportive housing and everything in between.”

Worst Week Ever!: Sept. 17-23

0 Comments · Wednesday, September 24, 2014
America is the land of opportunity. It’s even the land where you can blame others when your opportunity comes and goes without success.   

Drop Inn Center to Leave OTR

0 Comments · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The Drop Inn Center and Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation (3CDC) announced a deal on Nov. 22 to move the region’s largest homeless shelter from its current location in Over-the-Rhine to Queensgate.    

Hunger Games (a Thanksgiving Phantasmagoria)

0 Comments · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
There are times when Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) CEO Steve Leeper brings to mind the Great White Explorers of yore — Christopher Columbus, Capt. John Smith — who, upon landing on foreign soil, set about making it “new” by extracting the natives who were already there to make room for the Pilgrims who will think they landed there first.  
by German Lopez 11.25.2013
Posted In: News, Homelessness, Airport, Infrastructure at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Drop Inn Center

Morning News and Stuff

Drop Inn Center to move, sewer and water rates set to rise, CVG's losses cost region

The Drop Inn Center and 3CDC (Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation) on Friday announced a deal to move the region’s largest homeless shelter from its current location in Over-the-Rhine to Queensgate. The Drop Inn Center says the new location represents “most of the things on our wish list, which is fantastic.” And 3CDC has been pushing the shelter to move since it began its efforts to revitalize the Over-the-Rhine and downtown area, which some label gentrification. Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, said in a statement that government officials and developers should be helping maintain affordable housing in all parts of the city instead of moving poor people to other neighborhoods. Local sewer rates could rise by 6 percent and local water rates will skyrocket by 22.6 percent following proposed price hikes from the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD). The higher sewer rates are needed to help pay for a federally mandated sewer upgrade that will cost $3.2 billion over 15 years, according to MSD officials. MSD says the spike in water bills is necessary because water use is declining and treatment costs are increasing. The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) has lost more flights and seats since 2005 than any other major airport across the country, which effectively cost the Cincinnati area 33,000 jobs and nearly $1 billion in annual economic activity in the same time span, according to an analysis from The Cincinnati Enquirer. The 78-percent drop in flights — far higher than the national average of 19 percent — comes even as CVG’s average fares increased by 26 percent, which were also above the national average of 4 percent. Commentary from The Business Courier: “(Mayor-elect John) Cranley doubles down on streetcar cancellation.” Supporters of Cincinnati’s $133 million streetcar project will meet tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Cincinnati Hyatt Regency Ballroom to discuss their options to prevent Cranley from stopping the streetcar project. Supporters were recently reinvigorated by the current city administration’s projections that canceling the streetcar project could cost nearly as much as completing it.   As Ohio’s Republican legislators move to adopt a stand-your-ground law, the research shows the controversial self-defense laws might increase homicides and racial disparities in the U.S. justice system. Economists generally agree that state officials don’t play a big role in changing the economy in the short term, but political scientists say the economy will still play a major role in deciding Ohio’s 2014 gubernatorial elections. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald argues Republican Gov. John Kasich deserves the blame for Ohio’s economy, given that Kasich initially credited his policies for Ohio’s brief economic turnaround early on in his term. But now that the economy is beginning to stagnate, Kasich refuses to take the blame and points to congressional gridlock at the federal level as the reason for Ohio’s slowdown. Ohio paid nearly $1.2 million for a string of charter schools that closed weeks after they opened. The schools, which all operated under the name Olympus High School, are now facing an audit and have been ordered to pay back some of the money. A state job program for disabled Ohioans could lose millions in federal funds after the U.S. Department of Education warned the state it is improperly spending the money on case management and other administrative activities. But the head of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities insists the state program is under compliance. Ohio’s number of uninsured children is below the national average, according to a Georgetown University Center for Children and Families report. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is fast tracking business permits to outpace neighboring states. With Thanksgiving looming, Ohio gas prices rose in the past week. Migraine sufferers who also deal with allergies and hay fever might suffer from more severe headaches, according to a study from three medical centers that include the University of Cincinnati.Would you ride the world’s tallest water slide?Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez 11.15.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Homelessness at 03:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
Drop Inn Center

City Council Seeks $30,000 for Winter Shelter

Money would put shelter closer to $75,000 minimum goal

City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on Thursday called for the city administration to locate $30,000 to help fund the winter shelter, which would push the shelter closer to the $75,000 it needs to remain open from mid-to-late December through February. The shelter currently estimates it’s at approximately $32,000 in contributions, according to Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. The city administration now needs to locate the money and turn the transaction into an ordinance, which will officially allocate the funds. Spring says that should go in front of the Budget and Finance Committee in the next couple weeks. Although the $75,000 is often cited as the shelter’s goal, Spring emphasizes that it’s only the minimum. If early March turns out to be a particularly cold, the shelter would prefer to stay open for some extra time, which would require money above the $75,000 minimum. But without the city’s contribution, the shelter won’t have enough money to stay open beyond even 30 days. Spring says the program is necessary to keep Cincinnati’s homeless population from freezing to death. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld echoed the sentiment at Thursday’s committee meeting, saying it would be shameful if the city allowed people to die due to winter conditions. The winter shelter aims to house 91 people each night and kept roughly 600 people from the cold throughout the 2012-2013 season, according to Spring. “It’s a relatively cheap program to run,” Spring previously told CityBeat. “To serve about 600 people with $75,000 is pretty good.” Still, Spring says money has been more difficult to collect this year. He attributes that to reduced enthusiasm as the concept becomes more commonplace. “When we started doing this three years ago, it was sort of a new thing,” Spring explained. “It’s not so new anymore, which makes bringing in dollars more difficult. But the need hasn’t changed.” The shelter is put together by the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, Drop Inn Center, Strategies to End Homelessness, Society of St. Vincent De Paul and Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati. It’s supported largely by private contributions. Anyone can donate to the winter shelter — and Drop Inn Center — at tinyurl.com/WinterShelterCincinnati. To contribute specifically to the winter shelter, type in “winter shelter” in the text box below “Designation (Optional).”
by Andy Brownfield 11.07.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, City Council, Homelessness, News at 05:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Council OKs Application for Homeless Relocation Loan

Loan would help move three homeless shelters out of Over-the-Rhine

UPDATE 11-8-12: An aide to Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls tells CityBeat that the $7 million loan will only go toward moving two of the shelters: the Drop Inn Center and a new women's shelter to be operated by the YWCA. Because the City Gospel Mission requires a religious component to is outreach to the homeless, it cannot receive federal funding. The original story follows below.City Council on Wednesday signed off on a plan to apply for federal loans to help move three Cincinnati homeless shelters to new locations. Council members voted with all but one approving the application for $37 million in loans, $7 million of which would move the Washington Park-area shelters. If the loan is approved, the City Gospel Mission would move to the West End, a new women’s shelter would be build in Mount Auburn and the Drop Inn Center would move to a yet-undetermined location.  Cincinnati had pledged $10 million toward relocating the shelters. The loan would be paid back at $532,000 a year for the next 20 years. Councilman Chris Smitherman was the sole dissenting voice. He said he supports the homeless, but he is wary of the risks of the loan and the city’s ability to pay it back. Councilman Chris Seelbach, who said he moved to Over-the-Rhine shortly after the 2001 riots, voted to approve applying for the loan, but also voiced some concern. “The reason I moved is because I loved it; I fell in love with the diversity of the neighborhood,” he said, noting income diversity as well as racial and ethnic. “I would hope that we could find a location for the Drop that is in Over-the-Rhine and there isn’t a continued effort to push low income people out of Over-the-Rhine.” Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, said the shelters the city has now are perfectly adequate and the money could be spent better developing affordable housing and creating jobs to help eliminate homelessness. “Historically a majority of shelters started between 1982 and 1990 because in that era we cut dollars to housing and employment,” Spring said.  “Shelters were never created to end homelessness. Shelters were created for people to have a safe place once everything else had failed them. We shouldn’t let everything else fail them.”

A Simple, Rough Life

For some homeless, camps are preferable to shelters

2 Comments · Wednesday, September 29, 2010
For reasons that are obvious, there are more homeless sleeping outdoors and outside of local shelters in the warmer months than during the winter. The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless counted 77 people living outdoors around downtown last winter and estimates there are about 200 persons camping out at any given time. Take a look inside the lives of Baldy and Lee, who camp on a permanent basis.  

Brian Trotta and the Drop Inn Center

1 Comment · Wednesday, August 18, 2010
With temperatures in the 90s, even sitting in a car with the windows rolled down and the air conditioning turned off is a sweaty proposition. So whether Cincinnati Police Officer Brian Trotta last week had an alleged "family medical emergency" or not, it would've taken just a few minutes to leave his police dog with a colleague or a few seconds to at least roll down the windows. Trotta did neither, and the dog died.