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.
by German Lopez
Cranley calls for streetcar's end, SORTA obtains federal grant, casino gets state approval
John Cranley is calling for the city to halt progress on the streetcar after a report from The Cincinnati Enquirer revealed the city’s construction bids are $26 million to $43 million over budget.
City Manager Milton Dohoney says the city might throw out the bids and
start the bidding process again, but no final decision has been made yet. But
Cranley argues the city has no leverage over bidders because it already bought the
streetcars. In CityBeat’s in-depth look at the streetcar,
Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, said the cars had to be bought early
so they can be built, tested and burned into the tracks while giving
staff enough time to get trained — a process that could take as long as
two and a half years. The city also cautions that sorting through the
bids will take a few more weeks.
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) landed a $2.5 million grant
to purchase seven new buses. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat,
yesterday announced SORTA had won the competitive grant from the U.S. Department
of Transportation. The new buses will replace old ones that
are no longer good for service.
The Horseshoe Casino got approval from the state yesterday despite fears of bankruptcy
surrounding the casino’s parent company. As a precaution, the Ohio
Casino Control Commission is requiring Caesar’s, the troubled company,
to undergo annual financial reviews and notify the commission of any
major financial plans, including any intent to file bankruptcy. Caesar’s
is currently $22 billion in debt.
Ohio legislators have a lot of questions
about Gov. John Kasich’s new school funding formula. Kasich claims his
formula levels the playing field between poor and wealthy schools, but Rep. Ryan Smith, a Republican, pointed out his
poor Appalachian district is getting no money under the formula, while
the suburban, well-off Olentangy Schools are getting a 300 percent
increase. In a previous glimpse at the numbers for Cincinnati Public
Schools (CPS), CityBeat found the funding increases aren’t enough to make up for past cuts — largely because of the phaseout of tangible personal property reimbursements.
Another report found low-performing schools could be forced to outsource teaching. The new policy has aggravated some local officials.
Kasich’s budget will apparently benefit
the state’s mentally ill and addicted. Mental health advocates said the
budget will expand treatment, housing and other services. Most of the
benefits will come from the Medicaid expansion.
CPS says it will not lose any funding over the state auditor’s attendance scrubbing report. The report, released Tuesday, found CPS had been scrubbing attendance data, but the school district claims errors were not intentional.
Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel will give the State of the County address later today.
Ohio Third Frontier approved $3.6 million in new funds to support Ohio innovation. About $200,000 is going to Main Street Ventures, a Cincinnati-based startup accelerator.
Cincinnati Art Museum named an interim curator: Cynthia Amneus.
Covington is getting a new city hall.New evidence shows lab testing on mice may not be helpful for humans. Apparently, mice and human genes are too different for treatments to be comparable.
by German Lopez
School report card reform passed, governors call for bridge tolls, casino to open March 4
School report card reform is about to head to Gov. John Kasich, who is likely to sign it. The bill, which places higher grading standards on
the Ohio Senate yesterday with some minor tweaks. The Ohio House is
expected to approve the bill again, and then Kasich will need to sign it
for it to become law. In an early simulation
of tougher report card standards in May, Cincinnati Public Schools
dropped from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current
system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School
retaining its top mark with an A.
The governors of Ohio and Kentucky agree tolls will be necessary
to fund the Brent Spence Bridge project. The governors also said there
will be a financing plan by next summer and construction will begin in
2014. Kasich and Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear met yesterday with U.S.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to discuss funding for the bridge
The Horseshoe Casino will open in Cincinnati on March 4. What can Cincinnatians expect? According to one Washington Post analysis, casinos bring jobs, but also crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.
Sewer rates in Hamilton County will go up next year, but not as much as expected.
Cincinnati has 1,300 properties awaiting demolition.
With same-sex marriage likely coming on the ballot in
2013, a Quinnipiac University poll found Ohio voters thinly oppose its
legalization 47 percent to 45 percent, but it’s within the margin of error of 2.9 percent. A Washington Post poll in September found Ohioans support same-sex marriage 52 percent to 37 percent — well outside of the poll’s margin of error of 4.5 percent. CityBeat recently wrote about the same-sex marriage legalization in Ohio here.
The same poll found Ohio voters deadlocked on whether
marijuana should be legalized with 47 percent for it and 47 percent
against it. The results are slightly more conservative than the rest of
the nation. Washington state recently legalized marijuana and same-sex
marriage in the same day, and the world didn’t end.
Ohio gained approval
on a coordinated Medicare-Medicaid initiative that will change funding
for low-income seniors who qualify for both public health programs. With
the go-ahead from the federal government, the plan will push forward in
coordinating Medicare and Medicaid more efficiently to cut costs.
But on the topic of a Medicaid expansion, Ohio will not make a final decision until February.
As part of Obamacare, states are encouraged to expand their Medicaid
plans to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. If they do it, the federal
government will pick up 100 percent of the tab through 2016. After that,
federal funding drops annually, eventually reaching 90 percent for 2020
and beyond. Previous studies found states that expanded Medicaid improved lives.
Another study found Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion saves states money
in the long term by reducing the amount of uncompensated health care.
Cleveland's The Plain Dealer says Gov. Kasich will not privatize the Ohio Turnpike, but he will ask for a toll hike to help finance new projects. Kasich will officially announce his plans later today.
With opposition from law enforcement, a Senate committee is pushing ahead with a bill that lessens restrictions on gun-carrying laws.
Redistricting reform will soon be taken up by the Ohio Senate. The measure passed committee in an 8-1 vote. Redistricting is often used by politicians to redraw district borders in politically beneficial ways.
Gov. Kasich signed into law a measure that cracks down
on dog breeders in Ohio. The measure has long been pushed by animal
advocates, who say lax regulations for puppy mills have made the state a
breeding ground for bad practices. CityBeat previously wrote about how these bad practices lead to abusive dog auctions in Ohio.Homosexuality may not be in our genes, but it may be in the molecules that regulate genes.
by German Lopez
Former Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan
Heffner, who was forced to resign amid controversy, has cashed out with
$160,428.17. The money comes from saved-up vacation time, sick days and
personal time. Heffner will get all this money, even though he had to
resign in shame after an investigation from the Ohio inspector general
found Heffner had been misusing state resources and used his
political position to benefit his other employer.
The Horseshoe Casino is kicking off its hiring process for
a new batch of employees. In total, the casino is seeking to fill 750
new positions. New employees must be 21 and have a high school diploma
or GED, among other requirements. The casino says it’s committed to
keeping at least 90 percent of its workforce from the Greater Cincinnati
area. It’s currently estimated to open in spring 2013.The early voting controversy has reached Hamilton County.
The Democrats in City Council are pushing for extended in-person early
voting hours as Democrats around the state accuse Republicans of voter
suppression. The Hamilton County Board of Elections will decide on the
voting hours issue tomorrow at 9 a.m.Four Greater Cincinnati companies ranked in the 2012 Inc.
500 list of the fastest-growing businesses nationwide, up from one last
year. This year, NorAm International Partners, Tiger Fitness, Graybach
and Integrity Express Logistics made the list.The Brent Spence Bridge passed a major regulatory hurdle
Tuesday. The Federal Highway Administration declared that the bridge has
no significant environmental impact, which will allow bridge operators
to skip filing an environmental impact statement.Ohio Democrats are suing Gov. John Kasich over his public
schedule. Democrats say Kasich is breaking the law by not being more
transparent about his public schedule. They also suspect Kasich is campaigning on the behalf of presidential candidate Mitt Romney.The Ohio endangered species list has been updated. The bobcat
is no longer listed as endangered, although it is still considered
threatened. The list’s updates can be seen here.The Cincinnati Archdiocese debuted a plan to improve
Catholic schools in the Greater Cincinnati area. The plan will also make the
schools more affordable.Paul Ryan will be at Miami University today. The visit was organized by the university's campus Republicans. Doors will open at 3:30 p.m., and the event will start at 5:30 p.m. Instructions for tickets can be found on the Miami Republicans' Facebook page.Much to the dismay one of Romney’s surrogates, CNN’s
Soledad O’Brien called out the Romney campaign for propagating an
impossible budget and spreading lies about Obamacare. John Sununu, who
was on O’Brien’s show on behalf of Romney, did not appreciate the
lecture in reality, and he said O’Brien should wear an Obama bumper
sticker on her forehead. Unfortunately for Sununu and the rest of the
Romney team, it is true that Obamacare does not cut Medicare benefits to
seniors, and it’s also true Romney’s plan is impossible without similar cuts
to entitlement programs.It seems like Mother Teresa may have died an atheist. At
the very least, her faith in Catholicism was greatly diminished before
death.A new study has found that antibacterial soap could cause muscle function impairment.Behold, the Pizzabon.
by German Lopez
Northern Ohio counties are starting to
receive $19 million from Cleveland casino tax revenue. Cincinnati and Hamilton can
expect a similar revenue boon next year when the Horseshoe Casino opens
on Feb. 2013. Of course, the casino (and its revenue) could have been
coming this year, but Gov. John Kasich blocked construction last year to
protect his tax plan. The Enquirer
over the weekend did an investigative piece on ER
“superusers” — individuals who can sometimes cost the health-care system
as much as $1.3 million due to a lack of health insurance. Hospitals
have said that this "charity care" could be curtailed by Obamacare's
Medicaid expansion and save the state money, but Kasich claims the
Medicaid expansion is too costly for the state.
The Ohio Board of Regents is considering banning smoking on all public
campuses. Smoking is already banned in buildings, but health concerns
may lead to a bigger ban.
Toledo Public Schools used “scrubbing” to improve report card scores.
The Board of Education claimed such cheating could be a “state-level
Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown and his Republican opponent Josh Mandel have settled on a day to debate: Oct. 15.
Former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin was inducted into the Hall of Fame
Sunday. Here’s CityBeat’s C. Trent Rosecrans’ column offering current
players’ thoughts on Larkin.
The Great Ohio River Swim was postponed Saturday because of high bacteria levels. Not very surprising.
In science news, a European agency became the first in the Western world
Friday to approve a gene therapy treatment for a rare genetic disease.
by Kevin Osborne
A federal investigation into a January construction accident at the Horseshoe Casino site is now completed and the fines in the case have been reduced. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration originally imposed $108,000 in fines, but has since cut that amount in half. Thirteen workers were injured when a concrete floor they were pouring gave way. Four firms were cited in the mishap.An article in a journal published by the American Heart Association states that a review of eight cases indicates the use of electrical stun guns by police can cause cardiac arrest. Douglas Zipes, a physiologist with Indiana University, wrote the article that examines the effects of the Taser X26 ECD. At least three people have died locally in recent years after being shocked by Tasers, most recently a North College Hill man who was shocked at the University of Cincinnati last August. Police in Colerain Township and Fairfax have stopped using stun guns, but Cincinnati police officers still use the devices.A single woman who used artificial insemination to become pregnant has filed a federal lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Cincinnati after she was fired from her teaching job at a Catholic school. Christa Dias, who was fired in October 2010, isn't Catholic and says she wasn't aware of the church's teachings against the procedure. She taught computer classes and had no ministerial duties at the school. Employment law experts expect the issues involved in the case will attract national attention and could set a precedent.Nine local schools will receive part of a $21 million federal grant given to the state of Ohio to help improve low-performing schools. The Cincinnati facilities that will get aid are Rothenberg Preparatory Academy, Woodward Career Tech High, South Avondale Elementary, William H. Taft Elementary, George Hays-Jennie Porter, Schroder Paideia High, West Side Montessori High, Oyler and the district's Virtual High School. Local school officials say the grant money has been used the past two years to take all but one school out of the “academic emergency” classification.Cincinnati City Council could vote as soon as Wednesday on a proposal to extend insurance benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees. A council committee voted 8-0 Monday to give tentative approval to the plan, which was lobbied for by Councilman Chris Seelbach, the first openly gay man to serve on the group. The benefit is expected to cost the city between $300,000 and $540,000 annually, depending on how many claims are filed. Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican and evangelical Christian minister, abstained from the vote.In news elsewhere, documents seized from Osama bin Laden's hideaway in Pakistan after his death reveal the terrorist leader was worried about al-Qaeda's image. The records show bin Laden trying to reassert control over factions of loosely affiliated jihadists from Yemen to Somalia, as well as independent actors whom he believed had sullied al-Qaeda’s reputation and muddied its central message. Bin Laden was killed in a raid by Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011.British lawmakers said today that global media tycoon Rupert Murdoch is unfit to run a major company and should take responsibility for a culture of illegal telephone hacking that has shaken News Corp. A parliamentary committee said Murdoch and his son, James, showed "willful blindness" about the scale of phone-hacking that first emerged at Murdoch's News of the World newspaper. In the United States, Murdoch owns the Fox News Channel, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post.President Obama expressed support Monday for the blind Chinese dissident at the center of a standoff between Beijing and Washington. Speaking at a press conference, Obama said he wouldn't address specifics of the Chen Guangcheng case, but then went on to urge Beijing to address its human rights record. It's believed that Chen is hiding at the U.S. Embassy in China, but officials have declined to confirm the speculation or whether negotiations are underway.Although most Republican politicians are united in their opposition to federal health-care reforms known as “ObamaCare,” they disagree on what should replace it, Politico reports. Even after three years of railing against Obama’s plan, Republicans haven't coalesced around a full replacement plan. Although most Republicans support the health law’s requirement that insurance companies accept all applicants, the main replacement plan put forward by the GOP ignores that idea.Violence continues in Syria between government forces and rebels despite both sides agreeing to a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire. A human a rights group reported 10 civilians were killed in an army mortar attack and 12 soldiers killed in a firefight with rebel gunmen today as U.N. monitors tried to broker an end to the fighting, which has lasted more than a year.
by Kevin Osborne
Cincinnati City Council will soon create a working group of leaders from six neighborhoods near the planned downtown casino site. Once organized, the working group will examine ways to maximize the benefits from the visitors, jobs and tax revenue the new casino will bring, while dealing with any problems like possible increases in crime. The neighborhoods involved in the effort are downtown, Pendleton, Mount Adams, Mount Auburn, Over-the-Rhine and Walnut Hills.A winner has finally been announced in a disputed judicial election from November 2010. Once a count of provisional ballots was completed Friday, Democrat Tracie Hunter was declared the victor over Republican John Williams by 71 votes. Because of the close margin, however, a recount likely will be held. Hunter seemingly lost the 2010 election by just 23 votes out of nearly 230,000 ballots cast by county voters, but 286 ballots weren't counted because they were cast by people who showed up to vote at the correct polling place but were misdirected by poll workers and voted at the wrong precinct table. Hunter filed a lawsuit, and two federal courts ultimately agreed the ballots should be tallied.Since taking office in October, Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Tracy Winkler has cracked down on bail bond agents who owe money to the court system. During the past seven months, Winkler has collected $1.3 million of the $2.1 million owed by bond agents and their insurance companies. Since the early 1990s, several previous clerks of courts allowed some bond agents not to pay bonds forfeited when their clients didn’t appear in court, resulting in a large amount of forfeited but uncollected bonds owed to the governments involved in the cases.The results of an investigation into the recent actions of Villa Hills Mayor Mike Martin will be released at a meeting tonight. Martin is accused of retaliatory behavior and comments, misuse of city facilities, violating the Open Records Act and burning city documents, according to WCPO-TV (Channel 9). Several council members have requested that Martin resign, but he has refused.Motorists that use the Norwood Lateral to access southbound Interstate 75 will have to find a new route for the next 45 days. Beginning today, work to replace a bridge deck will require a closure of the ramp from westbound Norwood Lateral to southbound I-75. Traffic will be detoured to northbound I-75 to Paddock Road to southbound I-75.In news elsewhere, the CIA is ignoring the Pakistani government's directives and has resumed the use of automated drone attacks within that nation's borders. The drone strikes killed four al-Qaeda-linked fighters Sunday in a girls’ school they had taken over in the North Waziristan tribal area. Some politicians said the drone strikes might set back negotiations over the reopening of NATO supply routes to Afghanistan that Pakistan blocked five months ago.If the U.S. Supreme Court rules to strike down the federal government's mandate that individuals must buy health insurance, some observers say state governments might have to enact their own versions or pass other measures to draw healthy people into the system so their insurance markets remain viable. Ironically, lawmakers in the states opposing the federal mandate could face pressure from insurance companies to pass state mandates if the high court doesn’t also strike down the rules preventing them from charging more or denying coverage to sicker people.Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said negotiations with Iran should be given time to work before launching a military strike against the nation's nuclear facilities. Olmert, who was prime minister from 2006-09, was in office when a suspected nuclear site in Syria was attacked in five years ago.A few days after the United Kingdom entered into a double-dip recession, Spain has followed suit. The recession, defined as two months of “negative growth,” was blamed on weak domestic demand that was only partially compensated by exports, according to data from the National Statistics Institute. It was the first official estimate to confirm a recession. Gross domestic product fell 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.Chen Guangcheng, a blind human rights activist under house arrest in China, has escaped his captors and gone into hiding. A dissident who met Chen in Beijing after his escape said Chen scaled a wall by night to escape from his village in eastern China, past guards and surveillance equipment. A human rights group says Chen has taken shelter in the U.S. embassy, but American officials have not publicly confirmed the reports.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Mayor
, Public Transit
, Urban Planning
at 09:35 AM | Permalink
Cincinnati is moving forward, despite the better attempts of state Republicans
In his State of the City address
last week, Mayor Mark Mallory called on Cincinnati to continue pushing for
improvements. After years of stalling, projects like Washington Park’s
renovation, the Horseshoe Casino and the streetcar are finally moving forward,
and Mallory wants to make sure that work continues.Politically and economically, it
makes sense. Not only have voters approved of both the casino and the
streetcar, but the projects will create jobs. Casino developers have already
begun to fill what they promise will be 1,700 permanent jobs, and city
estimates show the first segment of the streetcar will create 300 construction
jobs and 25 permanent jobs.But while voters and local
politicians may approve, some state Republicans are doing their very best to
tear the projects down. Gov. John Kasich, who dismantled Ohio’s passenger rail
project, tried his hardest to continue his anti-transit rampage by railing
against the streetcar in public speeches last year. He even ripped away more than
$50 million in state funds from the project.The casino has been a little
luckier, but not by much. Kasich has claimed both neutrality and approval of
casinos, but he has made building the Horseshoe Casino more difficult. Despite
the fact Ohio has the highest casino tax in the nation, Kasich pushed for
renegotiations for higher taxes and fees last year, ultimately delaying the
casino’s opening from late 2012 to spring 2013.For the governor, such actions
probably make sense. Kasich has been an ardent supporter of tax cuts — sneaking
them into every single budget even when Ohio had a reported $8 billion deficit.
When he found massive education and health care cuts weren’t enough to close
the gap he helped create, he moved onto casinos and transit projects.Still, the projects move forward. Kasich and other state
Republicans have not been successful in killing them off, largely thanks to
local voters and local politicians pushing back.Last year, voters rejected Issue 48, which tried to ban all
investments in rail transportation for the next decade. Last week, Mallory
announced CAF USA was already drawing up designs for the streetcar, and the
first car could be finished as soon as 18 months from now.Meanwhile, the casino’s construction is 35 to 40 percent
complete, according to developers. This is despite an accident in January that
resulted in the injury of 20 workers after a steel beam fell and caused a floor
to partially collapse.But what needs to be clear is that these developments are in
spite of state Republicans like Kasich. When these job-creating projects are
said and done, it’s important credit goes where credit is due — straight to
local voters and local politicians.
by Kevin Osborne
Workplace safety inspectors have cited six companies for violations in connection with the Jan. 27 accident at the construction site of the Horseshoe Casino. More than a dozen workers were injured in the mishap. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) imposed more than $108,000 in fines on the companies, which include such local stalwarts as Messer Construction and Jostin Construction. In a statement, Messer's CEO says the firm “respectfully disagrees” with the findings and will request a meeting with OSHA.A man who was the police chief of Elmwood Place for 11 days is trying to get his record expunged of the five criminal charges that cost him his job. Jeremy Alley briefly served as chief in 2003, until he was caught using his police department computer to seduce someone he thought was a 15-year-old girl but actually was a police officer. Hamilton County prosecutors, however, are opposing the expungement request.A billboard advertising a cat litter brand was recently removed in Over-the-Rhine after some residents complained that it insulted their neighborhood. Tidy Cat's billboard stated, “You're so Over-the-Rhine,” followed by “#lifestinks.” It was part of its “NoMorePU.com” ad campaign, which used the billboards to mention things in life that stink. Tidy Cat's maker, Purina, issued an apology on Twitter that said "We're sorry. Our billboard was meant to be humorous, but to many of you it wasn't. We'll take fast action to correct this."Construction began Monday on a long-delayed retail, office and hotel project in Norwood. Developers broke ground on Rookwood Exchange, which will include a 15,000 square foot retail building along Edwards Road and a 230,000 square foot retail/entertainment/office building, along with a Courtyard by Marriott hotel, two restaurants and a parking garage. A legal dispute with homeowners involving eminent domain held up the plans for several years.Local ticket scalpers, who are licensed by the city, are upset with the Cincinnati Reds. After a counterfeit ticketing scheme on Opening Day, the team is urging fans to only buy their tickets from its website, or online at StubHub or TicketMaster. But legitimate scalpers, who pay $400 per year for a license, says the counterfeiters came from Atlanta and are giving them a bad name.In news elsewhere, FBI statistics indicate that although violent crime continues to decrease across the United States, the killings of police officers are increasing dramatically. Seventy-two officers were killed by perpetrators in 2011, a 25 percent increase from the previous year and a 75 percent increase from 2008. The 2011 deaths were the first time that more officers were killed by suspects than car accidents and was the highest in nearly two decades, excluding those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds President Obama holds clear advantages over Mitt Romney on personal attributes and various major issues, but remains vulnerable to discontent with the pace of the economic recovery. Obama has double-digit leads over the likely Republican presidential nominee on who would do a better job of protecting the middle class, addressing women’s issues, handling international affairs and dealing with health care.A decision about whether George Zimmerman will face criminal charges for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida could be announced today. Special Prosecutor Angela Corey said Monday that she won't present the case to a grand jury, which legal experts say means that Corey won't charge Zimmerman with first-degree murder, because that charge requires an indictment by a grand jury. In a statement, Corey's office stressed that the decision not to call a grand jury "should not be considered a factor" in whether Zimmerman will ultimately be prosecuted in Martin's death. If Zimmerman is charged, it likely will be for the lesser charge of manslaughter, experts added.In related news, activists in Sanford, Fla., said the investigation into Martin's death isn't the first case involving the death of an African-American person that the local Police Department has botched. Leaders in Sanford's black community say police have repeatedly failed to properly investigate crimes involving minority victims. In the past three years, officers have been caught demanding bribes from motorists, fabricating evidence and drawing weapons unlawfully.A psychiatric examination has found that confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik is not criminally insane, despite a claim based upon an earlier assessment. Today's finding comes six days before the 33-year-old man is set to stand trial on terror charges stemming from a bomb and shooting rampage that killed 77 people last summer in Norway.