by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: News
at 09:53 AM | Permalink
Lawsuit says school racially discriminated; Cranley says streetcar may run part time; Germany is so over Uber
Whoa. We're already halfway through the week. That's awesome. Here's your news today as we sail toward the weekend.The parents of four Colerain High School students filed a $25 million lawsuit yesterday against the school and the Colerain Township Police Department alleging racial discrimination violating the students’ constitutional rights.The lawsuit claims that the students were held in a room guarded by armed officers for six hours and interrogated April 10 after school officials said threats about a school shooting were found online. The four were later expelled. Officials say they found evidence on social media that the teens had gang affiliations. These accusations stem mostly from the fact the students were making “street signs,” in a rap video, administrators say, or “hand gestures associated with hip-hop culture” as their attorneys called the gestures. Hm. Neither of those sound racial at all.The students involved in the lawsuit, who are black, say white students at the school who engaged in similar conduct were not expelled. School officials deny any racial discrimination in discipline, though the school’s disciplinary records show that black students receive a higher number of expulsions than white students at the school, despite making up a smaller proportion of the student body.• Mayor John Cranley has suggested that maybe the streetcar will just run part time if voters, property owners along its route, or council members don’t find some way to pay for a projected $3.8 million shortfall in operating funds. Last week Cranley told 700 WLW’s Bill Cunningham, who is not really known to host reasonable conversations about public transit, that running the streetcar on reduced hours or select days, say when the Bengals or Reds play, could be an outcome of a funding shortfall. Supporters say the money shouldn’t be hard to find, and that there are a number of options available. They also say that Cranley and other critics aren’t taking into account the expected upswing in economic activity the streetcar will bring. Cranley said he was looking to property owners in OTR to get behind a special taxing district or $300-$400 residential parking permits that could make up some of that money. The thing is, the federal grant application the city filed to get the funds to build the streetcar stipulates that it will run seven days a week. Currently, the streetcar is slated to run from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and until 2 a.m. on weekends. Cranley has said there is nothing stipulating how frequently it must run, however. “Remember there is no obligation that we have to run it on a certain level of frequency," Cranley said in the interview. "So if it doesn't end up having a lot of ridership we can reduce the rides on it.”• Work will begin in the next couple weeks to gut the former SCPA building on Sycamore Street in Pendleton to turn it into 142 market-rate luxury apartments under the name Alumni Lofts. Core Redevelopment, the Indianapolis-based developer leading the project, recently contracted the interior demolition out to Erlanger, Ky., company Environmental Demolition Group. There will be some special challenges in redeveloping the former school including two pools on the fifth floor that will have to be removed without damaging the building’s walls and floors. The redevelopment is a part of big ongoing changes in Pendleton, which also include the construction of single-family homes in the neighborhood and other renovation projects for apartment buildings.• Another big apartment project in a historic building is beginning to take shape in nearby Walnut Hills. Evanston-based Neyer Properties has purchased the historic 1920s-era former Baldwin Piano Company building on Gilbert Avenue for $17 million. Neyer has indicated it is looking to turn the building, which is currently office space, into 170-190 loft-style apartments. • A suburban Detroit man who shot a woman on his front porch seeking help after a car accident was sentenced today to a minimum of 17 years in prison. Theodore Wafer of Dearborn Heights shot and killed Renisha McBride Nov. 2, 2013 as she stood on Wafer’s front porch. She had been banging on Wafer’s front door, seeking help after she hit a parked car and sustaining injuries hours earlier. Wafer, whose car had been vandalized a few weeks prior, said he thought his home was being invaded. He grabbed a shotgun and fired through his screen door, killing McBride. He called 911 afterward. Wafer stood trial and was found guilty of second-degree murder in August for the shooting. He claimed the shooting was self-defense.• Finally, app-based rideshare company Uber has caused some controversy here in Cincinnati and across the country. Critics say the company skirts rules and regulations that cab companies usually have to follow. But the flak Uber has gotten here is nothing compared to Germany, where a court in Frankfurt just issued a temporary ban on the service that could hobble the company’s ability to operate across that country. The ban comes after a lawsuit by taxi companies alleging that Uber doesn’t have the necessary insurance and permits to operate in Germany.
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.”
Deconstructing the food, games, booze and decor behind the Horseshoe, Cincinnati's first and only urban casino
1 Comment · Wednesday, March 13, 2013
We’ve already covered the social, political and economic angles of the development of the Horseshoe in previous CityBeat
issues, but for this issue, with no real agenda, we
decided to just wander a few blocks over to the Horseshoe after work to check out the behemoth and see what all
the fuss was about.
Opening of Horseshoe Casino is just the latest step for up-and-coming Pendleton neighborhood
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
The neighborhood of Pendleton is not what
it once was, and if the newly minted Horseshoe Casino has anything to do
with it, nor what it will be in the next few years.
by German Lopez
Federal cuts will hurt Ohio, casino revitalizes neighborhood, danger at private prison
The White House released a list
of what cuts will be made in Ohio as part of mandatory spending cuts
set to kick in March 1, which are widely known as the sequester. Among other
changes, 26,000 civilian defense employees would be furloughed, 350
teacher and aide jobs would be put at risk due to $25.1 million in
education cuts and $6.9 million for clean air and water enforcement would
be taken away. President Barack Obama and Democrats have pushed to
replace the sequester with a plan that contains tax changes and budget
cuts, but they’ve failed to reach a compromise with Republicans, who
insist on a plan that only includes spending cuts.
Community Council President David White told WVXU that the
streets and sidewalks of the long-neglected neighborhood of Pendleton
were previously crumbling, but the Horseshoe Casino’s development has helped transform the area.
With Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds, the city has budgeted $6
million in neighborhood development that has led to new trees, expanded
sidewalks and the potential for further developments that will appeal to
A surprise inspection
of the private prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)
on Feb. 22 revealed higher levels of violence, inadequate staff, high
presence of gang activity, illegal substance use, frequent extortion and
theft, according to the report from the Correctional Institution
Inspection Committee (CIIC), Ohio’s nonpartisan prison watchdog. The
CIIC report found enormous increases in violence, with a 187.5-percent
increase in inmate-on-inmate violence and 305.9-percent in
inmate-on-staff violence between 2010 and 2012. Many of the problems are
being brought on by inadequate staff, according to the report. The
findings echo much of what privatization critics have been warning about
ever since Gov. John Kasich announced his plans to privatize the state
prison in 2011, which CityBeat covered in-depth here.
Kasich has highlighted funding increases in the education plan in his 2014-2015 budget proposal, but the plan also includes looser requirements for Ohio’s schools.
The plan will remove the teacher salary schedule from law, which sets a
minimum for automatic teacher pay increases for years of service and
educational accomplishments, such as obtaining a master’s degree. It
would also change the minimum school year from 182 days to 920 hours for
elementary students and 1,050 for high school students, giving more
flexibility to schools. CityBeat took an in-depth look at the governor’s budget and some of its education changes here.
Ohio Democrats want to change how the state picks its watchdog.
The governor currently appoints someone to the inspector general
position, but Democrats argue a bipartisan panel should be in charge of
making the pick.
Mayor Mark Mallory is in Spain to meet with CAF, the
company constructing the cars for Cincinnati’s streetcar project. Streetcar opponents, including mayoral candidate John
Cranley, say the cars are being built too early, but the city says it needs the time to build the cars, test them, burn the tracks and
train staff in the cars’ use. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the 2013 mayoral race here.
The amount of Ohio prisoners returning to prison after being released hit a new low of 28.7 percent in 2009.
The numbers, which are calculated over a three-year period, indicate an
optimistic trend for the state’s recidivism statistics even before Gov. John
Kasich’s sentencing reform laws were signed into law.
Cincinnati’s real estate brokers say the city manager’s parking plan will revitalize Downtown’s retail scene
by using funds from semi-privatizing Cincinnati’s parking assets to
renovate Tower Place Mall and build a 30-story apartment tower with a
parking garage and grocery store.
The University of Cincinnati was the second-best fundraiser in the state in the past year. On Feb. 20, UC announced it had met its $1 billion goal for its Proudly Cincinnati campaign.
On Saturday, Bradley Manning, the American citizen accused of leaking a
massive stash of diplomatic cables and military reports to WikiLeaks, went through his 1,000th day in U.S. custody without a trial.Popular Science has seven ways sitting is going to kill us all.