City to Ask Feds for Bike Path Grant

0 Comments · Wednesday, April 22, 2015
The city is preparing to apply for Transit Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER grants, that would help finance the network of commuter bike paths.  
by Nick Swartsell 01.28.2015
Posted In: News at 11:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
brent spence bridge

Morning News and Stuff

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 11.24.2014
Posted In: News at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati area follows national trend in arrest disparities; rail advocates concerned city leaders are trying to shut down a commuter rail project; someone made a video game controller that draws blood

Morning all. Let’s get right to the news, shall we?It’s hardly a secret that arrest rates in communities across the country are often much higher for minorities. That’s certainly true for suburbs in the Cincinnati area, where authorities often arrest a much higher proportion of blacks than whites. In Sharonville, for instance, blacks are 12 times more likely to be arrested, and in Norwood, they’re seven times more likely. Law enforcement authorities in those communities say that the data controls for the lower population of blacks in those communities but doesn’t take into account the fact that not everyone committing crimes in those places lives there, which they say skews the numbers. Civil rights activists, however, say the data shows a clear racial disparity caused by a number of factors that need to be addressed. Many studies have made it clear that drug use, for instance, is just as high among whites as it is blacks, but law enforcement in many communities makes many more arrests in the latter. • Are City Manager Harry Black and Mayor John Cranley trying to pre-empt a rail project right out of existence? It seems a little premature to say, but that’s the concern expressed by the city’s planning commission chair Caleb Faux and some advocates for a rail component of the proposed Wasson Way trail. The project looks to extend bike paths and eventually, possible commuter rail lanes through Evanston, Hyde Park and Mount Lookout. But on Thursday, Black removed from the city’s planning commission agenda legislation seeking to preserve the possibility of rail in the area by creating a transportation overlay district. The move has sparked worries that Black was acting on orders from Cranley, no friend of rail, in a bid to pre-emptively block a future rail project through the Wasson Way corridor. Cranley said he only wanted to give time for more public input before a vote on the overlay district was taken.• In other City Hall news, Black announced his pick for the city’s director of trade and development today in a news release. Oscar Bedolla will be the city’s head of economic development. He previously worked for the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration on infrastructure projects in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago and Denver. • State Rep. Alicia Reece, who represents Cincinnati, is pushing for a law that would require greater aesthetic differences between fake guns and real ones in the wake of another police shooting Saturday night in Cleveland. A 12-year-old boy was shot and killed by police officers, who thought the toy gun he was carrying was a semi-automatic pistol. The incident has tragic echoes of the August shooting of John Crawford III in a Beavercreek Walmart. Crawford was carrying a pellet gun sold in the store when police shot him. • As lawmakers in the Ohio General Assembly wrangle over how to fix the state’s unemployment compensation system, a new report on the fund reviews how slashes to taxes on employers put the state in debt to the federal government to the tune of $1.3 billion. It’s interesting reading, to say the least, and a primer in the problems that can arise from some lawmakers' "cut every possible tax to the bone” mentality.• Finally, if you’re really serious about video games, I have a Kickstarter for you to check out. It’s for a company that wants to make a controller that extracts real blood from you every time you’re injured in a video game. “It’s stupidly simple,” the pitch starts. Well, that’s at least partially right. Yow. The device keeps track of how much blood it hass removed, however, so you don’t like, pass out or bleed to death because you’re terrible at "Call of Duty."

Trail + Transit

New plan recommends developing Wasson Way bike trail with room for light rail

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 5, 2014
The 6.5-mile stretch of ugly and abandoned Wasson Way rail tracks that run through several upscale, bustling Cincinnati neighborhoods have long-since been hotly debated, at times pitting advocates of light rail against bike trail supporters.   
by Nick Swartsell 11.06.2014
Posted In: News at 10:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar funding puzzle coming together; Lacheys' bar set for December; $2 million will get you the ultimate punk collector's item

All right all right! Before we get to what’s going on today, I want to talk for a minute about yesterday’s print issue, which we’re pretty proud of. Our copy editor/news person Samantha got her first news feature in, and it’s super-interesting look at new developments with the Wasson Way bike trail. Check it out. Also, yesterdays’ cover story is a long piece I worked on for weeks on the plight of coerced sex workers in Cincinnati. I was blown away by the stories sources shared and the immense strength of people who go through that world. Take a look.• It looks like the streetcar funding puzzle may finally be coming together. Yesterday afternoon Councilman Kevin Flynn presented a new plan to fund the transit project’s operations, and this one could go all the way. Flynn proposes a three-pronged attack to cover the annual $4 million or so shortfall for streetcar operating funds. One funding source would be an adjustment on commercial property tax abatement in downtown and Over-the-Rhine. The arrangement would ask commercial property owners to agree to a 67.5 percent abatement instead of the now-standard 75 percent deal. That would net about $200,000 the first year and up to $2 million a year a decade from now. The second source would be a boost in parking meter charges to a maximum in some areas of $2.25 an hour downtown and $1.25 an hour in OTR. About $1.5 million gained from that boost would go to the streetcar. Finally, the city’s counting on about $1.4 million a year from riders paying to ride the streetcar. The plan has a good shot. A majority of Council has signed on, including Transportation Committee Chair Amy Murray. Even Mayor John Cranley has indicated he won’t oppose the funding framework, despite the fact it cuts out the residential parking permit scheme he’s been pushing. The scheme elicited only minor grumbles from the streetcar opponent.“I appreciate a plan that won’t dip into the General Fund of the City and the hard work that went into crafting it,” he said in a statement yesterday evening. “I still think the streetcar is not the best use of these resources, but I look forward to moving past this debate.”• While we’re talking about City Hall stuff, City Manager Harry Black today announced the launch of the city’s Performance and Data Analytics Office. The office will set performance management goals with each city department, start an innovation lab to research operational problems the city is experiencing and design and run something called Citistat, which will utilize data analysis to find and address areas where the city’s services are underperforming. The office will be lead by Chad Kenney, Jr., who last led the city of Baltimore’s data analysis office. “I had the opportunity to work closely with Chad in Baltimore,” Black said in a statement. “I am confident that he is the right man for the challenge here in Cincinnati.”• Here are a couple news bits related to the ole’ al-key-hol. Nick and Drew Lachey, Cincinnati’s most famous singing brothers, have set the opening date for their bar, which will also be a reality show because that’s how things work now, for mid-December. It will be at 12th and Walnut and will be called… Lachey’s Bar. I really hope they didn’t pay a branding firm for that name.• Also in beer-related news, a new brewery on Harrison Avenue in Westwood is in the works. The 2,200-square-foot Bridgetown Brew Works will start by offering five brews, with more coming as business grows. The owners are currently working on construction of the space now. They say they’re hoping to avoid relying on financing and have turned to online crowd-funding site Kickstarter to raise money for the venture. Even if that campaign fails, however, they’re determined to open next year.• The fight over Common Core rages on. A bill to repeal the federal education standards in the state has made it out of committee and will now be considered by the Ohio House of Representatives. Opponents of the standards say they amount to a federal takeover of education, while supporters say they simply ensure students are being taught essential skills for the modern workplace. • Local college freshman Lauren Hill, who has an inoperable and likely terminal brain tumor, has become a deservedly celebrated figure around Cincinnati. She’s faced her disease with courage and grace, and last week she got to live out a dream when she scored two baskets in a college basketball game for Mount Saint Joseph at Xavier’s Cintas Center. She’s also gotten her picture on a Wheaties box and received national accolades. Yesterday, she was also the subject of this really incredible piece about sportsmanship published by Grantland. You should check it out.• Finally, if you need any more proof that punk is long-dead and that gentrification is alive and well, here it is. If you've got $2 million lying around, you can buy the house where seminal hardcore band Minor Threat played its first show. The house now features lux amenities like granite counters, a two-car garage and all sorts of other swank stuff. This time last year I was living in Washington D.C., paying an unspeakable amount to rent a room in a house with five other people. This house, which is actually kinda cheap for that neighborhood, I think, was a 15-minute walk toward the swanky side of town from where I lived.

Wasson Way Bike Plan Moves Forward

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Advocates of converting into a bike trail the space on the long-vacated Wasson Way railroad tracks that snake through several healthy residential and business districts gleamed new hope Tuesday when Cincinnati City Council’s Livable Communities Committee passed a resolution to approve the space to be preserved for a public hike-bike path.   
by Danny Cross 06.04.2012

Morning News and Stuff

Hamilton County has been killing people more often than Ohio counties of similar size, despite actually asking for the death penalty less often. Today's Enquirer takes a look at the growing opposition to the death penalty in other states and recent legislation and task forces aimed at either studying its effectiveness or stopping the practice altogether. Prosecutor Joe Deters says he's going to kill all the people who deserve it because the law is still the law. Would you like to pay tolls or higher gas taxes in order to have a new Brent Spence Bridge? No? Then you're like a majority of people who take the time to respond to Enquirer polls. City Manager Milton Dohoney plans to ask City Council to raise the property tax rate in response to a projected $33 million 2013 deficit that everyone knows was coming. The Community Press on the East Side says Norfolk Southern is willing to consider selling the Wasson Way right of way that some would like to see turned into a bike trail. CityBeat in March found the proposed trail to have support among cycling enthusiasts but some resistance from light rail supporters. President Obama hooked up an 11-year-old kid with a note excusing him from class on Friday. “He says, ‘Do you want me to write an excuse note? What’s your teacher’s name?” Sullivan told ABC. “And I say, Mr. Ackerman. And he writes, ‘Please excuse Tyler. He was with me. Barack Obama, the president.'" Fortune magazine has taken exception to Mitt Romney's recent criticism of Solyndra, the solar panel company that went out of business despite a $500 million Department of Energy loan. So last Thursday Romney held a surprise press conference at Solyndra's shuttered headquarters. During his prepared statement, Romney said: "An independent inspector general looked at this investment and concluded that the Administration had steered money to friends and family and campaign contributors." Romney then repeated the claim later in the press conference. Small problem: No inspector general ever "concluded" such a thing, at least not based on any written reports or public statements. Wisconsin Gov./Union Crusher Scott Walker holds a slight lead over his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, according to a recent poll. George Zimmerman is back in jail after what his attorney is calling a misunderstanding over telling a judge that he had limited money even though a website set up to fund his legal defense raised more than $135,000. Legal issues will be involved in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempt to ban giant sodas. Jason Alexander has released a lengthy and quite thoughtful apology for referring to the sport of cricket as "a bit gay" during a recent appearance on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson. Why do people on the West Coast get to see all the cool stuff that happens in space? First the eclipse and now the Transit of Venus, when Venus will cross paths between the sun and earth. Next time it will happen is 2117. And Australia got to see a partial lunar eclipse the other day, too.

Hit the Trails

Urban trails offer a safe haven from automobile traffic, but more are needed

2 Comments · Wednesday, May 2, 2012
A couple of years ago I was heading up William Howard Taft Road to Gilbert Avenue and was nearing the intersection in the left turn lane when a contractor’s van started tailgating me. The driver whaled on his horn for me to move. Now, seriously, this guy had a gas pedal and could go much faster than me.